Luis Antonio Peralta Cuéllar

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On February 14, 2015, Luis Antonio Peralta Cuéllar, 63, owner and director of Linda Stereo radio station in the southern Colombian town of Doncello, was shot three times in the head by two gunmen who entered his home around 6 p.m., Geovanny Canacué, a Linda Stereo reporter, told CPJ. The attack took place at Peralta’s house, which doubled as the radio station headquarters.

Peralta’s wife, Sofía Quintero, was shot in the arm during the attack, Canacué said. She died from complications related to her injuries a few months later, according to reports.

Peralta founded Linda Stereo in 1998 and often broadcast critical editorials and news reports during a segment called "Palabras del Director" (Words from the Director). Canacué said that Peralta often used the segment to denounce government corruption in Doncello and nearby towns. Prior to his death, Peralta had reported on alleged cost overruns in the purchase of garbage trucks in Doncello, according to the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP).

Eight days before he was killed, Peralta told Canacué that he had received threats, but that he did not want to discuss them over the phone. The two men had planned to meet to discuss the details, Canacué said.

The day before Peralta was killed, he announced he would run in the October election for mayor of Doncello, a town in southern Caquetá state which has long been a stronghold of Marxist guerrillas.

"I think his death may have been related to the fact that he was permanently denouncing corrupt politicians and then wanted to run for mayor," José Ever Perdomo, a journalist who had worked with Peralta, told La Nación, a daily published in the nearby city of Neiva.

Doncello Mayor Fernando Troncoso did not return CPJ’s calls requesting comment.

Col. William Alberto Boyacá, police commander in Caquetá state, announced a monetary reward for information leading to the capture of the perpetrators of the crime. On March 2, authorities arrested Yean Arlex Buenaventura Barreto, who they accused of being the gunman, according to news reports, but offered no information about a possible motive. Buenaventura denied any role in the murder.

Two weeks after Peralta’s murder, FLIP announced it had formed "Project Caquetá," an initiative to continue and expand on the journalist’s critical reporting, according to news reports.

On December 14, 2017, a judge convicted Buenaventura of aggravated homicide for the killing of Peralta and Quintero, according to news reports. On February 1, 2018, a court in Florencia, the capital of Caquetá, sentenced him to 58 years and three months in prison, according to news reports.

In its decision, the court found that evidence indicated Peralta was killed in retaliation for his work as a journalist, specifically the critical broadcasts on his radio program, according to FLIP, which wrote that the sentence was the longest ever handed down for a crime against freedom of expression in Colombia.

On March 16, 2021, the Superior Court in Florencia reversed that aspect of the decision, and ruled that it was not possible to establish whether the crime was connected to Peralta’s journalism work, according to the ruling, a copy of which CPJ reviewed, and a report by FLIP.

The appeals court changed Buenaventura’s conviction to simple murder, with a 45-year prison term, instead of a killing in response to the journalist’s work, according to those sources.

FLIP condemned the ruling in its report, and wrote that the new decision failed to take into account the context of threats under which Peralta worked in Colombia.

On March 19, FLIP filed a writ of cassation in that case, requesting that it be reviewed by a higher court, according to that report; as of April 2021, that review was still pending.