Neo-paramilitaries known as “Aguilas Negras” (Black Eagles) are imposing a “reign of terror” over Colombian journalists, according to press freedom group Reporters Without Borders.
The “extreme right-wing militia” was added to the NGO’s global list of journalist “predators,” released Thursday to coincide with World Press Freedom Day 2012. The organization dedicated its commemorations to missing French journalist Romeo Langlois, believed to have been kidnapped by the FARC Saturday.
Though the AUC had technically disbanded, various right-wing paramilitary successor groups remained a major threat to Colombian journalists, said Reporters Without Borders.
“The most feared of these armed groups, the ‘Black Eagles,’ continues to impose a reign of terror, killing journalists or forcing them to censor themselves or flee the country,” said the report. “They target journalists who criticize the so-called “democratic security” policies launched by President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010), which are still in force. Their victims also include local and community journalists working in areas where clashes continue.”
Latin American organized crime thinktank Insight Crime describes Aguilas Negras as “a non-cohesive group dedicated to protecting the economic interests of former mid-level paramilitary commanders scattered across Colombia. At times, Aguilas Negras was the generic term used by the government to describe the many fragments of ex-paramilitaries still trafficking drugs across Colombia.”
In recent months, three Colombian journalists were allegedly forced to flee their homes after receiving death threats from illegal armed groups, added Reporters Without Borders.
Although the FARC was left off the list last year, it could return at any time, said the NGO’s Americas desk officer Benoit Hervieu.
The rebel group made a few specific threats last year, he said, but their intimidation tactics had waned considerably in comparison to paramilitary groups. It would be unwarranted to include them in the same category, he said.
Colombian filmmaker Juan Lozano told Reporters Without Borders that an improvement in safety conditions for journalists in Colombia’s major cities had been accompanied by a worsening situation in remote towns. Community and regional radio journalists, he said, faced the greatest risk.
Reporters Without Borders noted the report was issued before the FARC allegedly kidnapped French journalist Romeo Langlois last week.
According to the group, 43 journalists have been killed in Colombia since 1992. The country’s Foundation for Press Freedom said in its annual report February that 131 journalists had fallen victim to some form of aggression in 2011.