Two more journalists received death threats this week from paramilitary successor groups as violence and intimidation continue to cast shadow’s over Colombia’s press freedoms.
Calixto Perez, who works in a municipality in the north of the state of Antioquia, was forced to flee after the criminal gang known as “Los Urabeños” gave him 24 hours to leave the region, according to RCN Radio.
“If I didn’t leave, I would have to face the consequences,” Perez said, who left without his family. It is second threat he has received within the last year.
Despite having filed complaints with the prosecutor general’s office and been promised security detail from the National Unit of Protection, Perez says he still hasn’t received any protection from the state. Other journalists in Antioquia are also reportedly still waiting for their promised security.
September had already been deemed a “black month” after more than 150 people in Colombia received death threats.
Journalist Cristian Herrera similarly received threats and orders to leave his home state of Norte de Santander from the Rastrojos, a group also responsible for recent threats against human rights defenders. But unlike Perez, Herrera said he was given police protection with security detail around his residence
The fresh threats come one week after Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released an infographic showing that Colombia is the most dangerous place to be a journalist in the Western hemisphere after Mexico.
While Mexico has had the most journalist killings since 2000, Colombia comes in second with 56 killed in the last 14 years.
RSF described the numbers as “disturbing because none of these countries is officially at war, despite the continued presence of paramilitaries in Colombia.”
Colombia’s Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) tracks all of the violations against the press in the country. For 2014, they report 114 violations committed against 145 victims, most from the areas surrounding the big cities Bogota, Medellin and Cali.
The most common violation is threats, with 58 reported victims. Some 48 journalists were obstructed from their work, while 31 were victims of aggression.