Bogotá, September 28, 2021 – Colombian authorities must thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Marcos Efraín Montalvo, determine if he was targeted for his work, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On September 19, in the western city of Tuluá, an unidentified man with a pistol entered a store where Montalvo was talking with a friend and fatally shot the journalist four times in the chest, according to news reports and security footage of the shooting. The gunman did not rob the store and immediately fled on a motorcycle, according to those reports.
Montalvo, 68, had reported since the 1970s for local newspapers and radio stations and for the El País newspaper in the nearby city of Cali; in recent years he published nearly all of his reporting on his personal Facebook page, where he had about 1,000 followers, according to his nephew, Mauricio Altamirano, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
“Colombian authorities must do everything in their power to thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Marcos Efraín Montalvo, determine whether he was targeted for his work, and bring those responsible to justice,” said CPJ Latin America and Caribbean Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Authorities must send the message that journalist killings are taken seriously, or the cycle of violence against the press will continue.”
Altamirano told CPJ that Montalvo often reported on alleged corruption and mismanagement by Tuluá officials, and had also written about organized crime, including the Cilantro Cartel, a local gang that allegedly extorted vegetable sellers in the city.
In 2019, someone riding a motorcycle struck Montalvo with their helmet and warned the journalist to stop reporting on sensitive issues, Altamirano said.
Altamirano added that Montalvo had received several death threats on Facebook this year in response to his reporting, including one instance in which an unidentified Facebook user threatened “that if he continued to publish stupidities that they would not rest until he was dead.”
Montalvo said that the journalist did not take the threats seriously enough to report them to the police.
During a September 20 visit to Cali, Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano told reporters that the killing “could be related” to Montalvo’s stories denouncing political corruption, according to news reports.
Tuluá Mayor John Jairo Gómez, a frequent subject of Montalvo’s critical stories, tweeted that he “profoundly regretted” the killing. CPJ called his office but no one answered.
Clara Luz Roldán, the governor of Valle del Cauca department, which includes Tuluá, announced a reward of 100 million pesos (about US$26,000) for information leading to the capture of the perpetrators, according to news reports.
CPJ texted the attorney general’s office in Bogotá, which is in charge of investigating the case, and the commander of the police department in Valle del Cauca, but did not receive any replies.