William Soto Cheng

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Soto, a 46-year-old journalist with the local television station Telemar, was shot dead by two unknown gunmen in the city of Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca Department, in western Colombia.

At around 3:30 p.m., two men riding on a motorcycle shot Soto three times at close range while he was near the Telemar offices, where he hosted a news program “Litoral Pacífico” (Pacific Coast), four times a week, and a sports show “Deportes en Acción”(Sports in Action), once a week. Soto died at the scene.

According to CPJ sources, during the October 26 municipal elections, Soto said on his show that police and military forces were responsible for irregularities in the tally of votes. Soto also accused the local police chief of corruption. Sources said that after the journalist made the accusations, he admitted he was wrong and apologized after being threatened with criminal charges.

Manuel Barrantes, a reporter with Cascajal Estéreo radio station and vice-president of the local press organization Unión de Periodistas de Buenaventura, told CPJ that Soto was a very controversial figure. Although Barrantes said he did not know of any direct threats against Soto, he said that the journalist had expressed his intention of leaving Buenaventura in the near future because of unspecified pressures from his job.

Soto’s wife, Doralba Soto, who worked with him as a camerawoman, told CPJ that she was not aware of any threats against her husband. According to her, Soto was not investigating corruption of local security forces or municipal authorities.

Adonai Cárdenas Castillo, local correspondent for the Cali-based newspaper El País, said that since Soto had many enemies in Buenaventura because of his controversial reporting, it is difficult to establish a motive.

A few months ago, Soto threatened to denounce a local official on his television show unless the official gave Soto government advertising, a knowledgeable source told CPJ. The sources also said that before his murder, Soto had threatened to denounce the local water utility for malfeasance unless the manager canceled a debt Soto owed.

On December 23, Buenaventura Mayor Jaime Mosquera Borja announced the arrest of two individuals suspected of carrying out the crime. The mayor refused to speculate about the motives of the murder.