Police stand guard in Taraza, Colombia, on March 14, 2023. Journalist Luis Gabriel Pereira was recently shot and killed in the town of Ciénaga de Oro. (AP/Fernando Vergara)

Colombian journalist Luis Gabriel Pereira shot and killed in town of Ciénaga de Oro

Bogotá, May 12, 2023—Colombian authorities must thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Luis Gabriel Pereira, determine if he was targeted for his work, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On Tuesday, May 9, two gunmen aboard a motorcycle fatally shot Pereira while he was riding his motorcycle in Ciénaga de Oro, a town in the northern Colombian department of Córdoba, according to news reports and the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom, or FLIP.

Pereira, 25, founded the local news outlet Notiorense on Facebook this year. He published stories on crime and public security in Ciénaga de Oro, including articles about the recent killing of a woman that named her alleged killer. The reports prompted fellow journalists to warn Pereira that his safety could be at risk, according to FLIP.   

The motive for the killing remains unclear, according to those reports. In October 2022,  journalist Rafael Emiro Moreno was also shot and killed in Córdoba, as CPJ documented at the time.

“The killing of Luis Gabriel Pereira shows once again the deadly risks for journalists in the Colombian region of Córdoba,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “Authorities must investigate Pereira’s killing to determine if it was related to his work, bring those responsible to justice, and show a clear commitment to the protection of reporters.”

Córdoba is home to several violent drug-trafficking gangs, according to news reports, and the FLIP statement said Ciénaga de Oro Mayor Ana Bedoya Usta complained that security had deteriorated in recent months.

Yasid Alberto Montaño, police commander in the Córdoba capital of Montería, said the police were investigating the killing and announced a 10 million peso reward (US$2,173) for information that could help solve the crime, according to news reports.

Paola Tovar, a spokesperson for the attorney general in Bogotá, told CPJ that agents were interviewing Pereira’s relatives and working with the police in Ciénaga de Oro to investigate the killing. CPJ called the Ciénaga de Oro police but no one answered.

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Luis Fernando Velasco tweeted that the government “rejects and regrets” the killing of Pereira and called on authorities to “work against the stigmatization of [journalists] who carry out this fundamental task for democracy.”