Castilla, 50, editor and publisher of the local newsmagazine El Pulso del Tiempo, was shot by an unidentified gunman in the northern city of Montería, according to local news accounts. The journalist was reading a book outside his house around 9 p.m. when the attacker shot him at least eight times, the press said. A second man picked up the attacker and they reportedly fled on a motorcycle. Castilla died at the scene.
Castilla, who also contributed to the local radio station La Voz de Montería, had received threats for at least four years in relation to his coverage of links between local politicians, landowners, and illegal right-wing paramilitary groups, local journalists told CPJ. In July 2008, the journalist testified before the Colombian Supreme Court on links between members of the National Congress and paramilitary groups.
Shortly before his death, Castilla covered a court ruling against the owner of the Montería newspaper El Meridiano in a land dispute case, according to the national daily El Tiempo. The daily said the journalist had also reported on allegedly unlawful use of state funds in 2006 congressional political campaigns.
The government provided protection to Castilla from 2006 to 2009 because of threats against his life, the local Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP) said. In November 2009, the Ministry of Interior withdrew the protection based on an intelligence review that indicated Castilla was no longer under threat, according to FLIP.
Local authorities did not disclose possible motives or suspects, according to local press reports. Then-President Álvaro Uribe Vélez condemned the killing and offered a reward of 50 million Colombian pesos (US$26,000) for information, local press reports said. On March 26, the federal attorney general’s office took over the investigation.
Tania Castilla Florez, the journalist’s daughter and a witness in the case, fled Montería in April after she and her family were followed several times.