Bogotá, September 11, 2023—Colombian authorities must thoroughly investigate a death threat against journalist Estefanía Colmenares, ensure her safety, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On September 6, Colmenares, editor of the independent La Opinión newspaper in the northern city of Cúcuta, received a threat from an unidentified number via messaging app that said, “You are a military target. There’s a price on your head,” according to news reports and Colmenares, who spoke with CPJ.
“Colombian authorities must investigate and hold to account those who threatened the life of Estefanía Colmenares,” said Cristina Zahar, CPJ’s program coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, in São Paulo. “It is unacceptable for journalists at La Opinión to face death threats for reporting on matters that are in the public interest.”
The Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom said in a statement that it had documented at least 10 threats or attacks against La Opinión and its journalists in the past six years.
Colmenares told CPJ that she believed the death threat was the result of La Opinión’s recent coverage of Ramiro Suárez, a former Cúcuta mayor who is serving a 27-year sentence for homicide. The newspaper reported that Suárez had been admitted to a local hospital for over a month, where he illegally coordinated political campaigns ahead of local elections, that large sums of money had been found in his room, and that he had received unauthorized visitors. Colmenares said she was interviewed by popular W Radio station on September 1 about the stories.
Colmenares said she had since been assigned two police escorts for her protection.
On September 7, the Attorney General’s office announced that it was investigating the threat. A spokesperson for the Attorney General told CPJ that they would update the public when there was progress on the case.
On September 8, Colombia’s prison service transferred Suárez to a clinic in the capital, Bogotá, because of possible disciplinary breaches and unauthorized visits in the Cúcuta hospital, according to a report by Caracol Radio.
Colmenares told CPJ that it was the first time she had been threatened during her five-year tenure as editor of La Opinión, but her grandfather, Eustorgio Colmenares, one of La Opinión’s founding editors, was murdered for his journalism in 1993 by Marxist guerrillas.
CPJ was unable to obtain contact information for a Suárez spokesperson.