Luis Carlos Cervantes Solano

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Unidentified gunmen shot Luis Carlos Cervantes Solano while he was on a motorcycle, in the municipality of Tarazá in the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia state, according to news reports. Cervantes was the director of the community radio station Morena FM and, until August 2013, the local correspondent for the television program “Teleantioquia Noticias.”

The Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) reported that Cervantes had filed at least five complaints since 2012 to the national attorney general’s office about threats he said he had received. The attorney general’s office granted him police protection that same year. Cervantes had said the threats began in 2010 when he reported for “Teleantioquia Noticias” on corruption in the local government and alleged connections between local authorities and the criminal group Los Urabeños, according to FLIP. In late 2013, he told FLIP he was abandoning news reports for musical programming as a result of ongoing threats.

On June 5, the committee that evaluates whether journalists are at risk and chooses whether to provide them with protection decided to withdraw his security detail because it determined Cervantes was no longer practicing journalism, according to FLIP. That decision took effect on July 24, according to FLIP.

On July 21 however, Cervantes reported that a man had come to his home and ordered him to transmit a news story on the radio station, according to the daily El Colombiano. The paper did not offer further details about the content of the news item. It said Cervantes refused and the next day received a text message telling him he had two hours to leave the municipality. Cervantes left Tarazá briefly and, when he returned, protested that his police protection had been pulled. In a statement FLIP said it had made authorities aware of the new threat.

Andrés Villamizar, director of the National Protection Unit, which oversees security for Colombians who have been threatened, told reporters after the murder that the decision to withdraw the protection was made because the unit could not determine that Cervantes was still practicing journalism or that the threats were related to journalism. The week after Cervantes died, Villamizar told reporters “although we should wait for the investigation that will determine who is responsible and the motives behind this horrible crime, everything indicates that it is not a crime committed because of his journalist work.”

In a statement FLIP said it had analyzed Cervantes’s situation during several trips to the region between August 2013 and July 2014, and had collected evidence that suggested that if Cervantes was still at risk it was not related to journalistic activity. FLIP said it had learned from the National Protection Unit of legal cases underway against Cervantes that were unrelated to his journalistic work.

The week after Cervantes died, the national attorney general’s office announced it was creating a special unit to investigate the murder and the decision to withdraw his security detail. The unit will have the authority to intervene in the investigation carried out by local authorities.