A press freedom NGO in Colombia has condemned the escalating threats towards one of the country’s most outspoken independent journalists, Gonzalo Guillen, national media reported Wednesday.
The Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP), a nongovernmental organization that tracks violations against journalists in Colombia, released an alert after authorities warned the prominent investigative journalist of “a gigantic plan to assassinate him,” Vanguardia newspaper reported.
The warning from Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office followed an incident on May 22 that forced Guillen and his bodyguards to manoeuvre when their vehicle was chased by unknown assailants in two cars, Caracol Radio Reported.
According to FLIP, the Ministry of Interior’s National Protection Unit (UNP) immediately activated an emergency plan and expanded security for Guillen, who has been threatened numerous times in the past, forcing him to leave Colombia at least twice.
In 2012, FLIP announced that a number of threats against Guillen were connected with the former governor from Colombia’s northern state of La Guajira, Juan Francisco “Kiko” Gomez, who is currently detained by authorities for alleged involement with criminal gangs and paramilitary groups. Guillen has been instrumental in relieving the corruption of the Gomez government, and has accused the governor personally of ordering attempts on his life.
An independent investigation conducted in 2012 by Guillen revealed that “Kiko” Gomez also had links to the assassinations of other persons who had spoken out against him.
This is not the first time that the former governor has been linked to assassination threats of journalists. In April, outspoken Sanator-elect and former journalist Claudia Lopez — who had previously been forced into exile after receiving numerous death threats — confirmed her most threats had come from Kiko Gomez.
Before election to the Senate, Lopez worked with journalists and human rights defenders to publish research which proved links between Kiko Gomez and illegal sectors. Evidence was later used to remove and ban him from office for 17 years.
In response to official efforts to find the people behind the latest threats against Guillen, FLIP stated that “it is incomprehensible that investigations to determine who the culprits have had no significant progress [previously] and we call for the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate the assassination plot against Guillen.”
Guillen, who’s work has appeared in numerous newspapers throughout Colombia, has worked extensively in Latin America and was, until recently, correspondent for Miami’s El Nuevo Herald.
Despite declining rates of targeted homicides, Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to practice journalism. Attacks and intimidation are still common, especially in the countryside, and impunity continues to be high.