Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Colombia: Columnist receives death threat

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 15 October 2010, Claudia Ayola Escalón, a columnist for the daily "El Universal" in Cartagena, Bolivar, and for the "Semana" magazine, received an e-mailed death threat. The origin of the threat is unknown.

Ayola told FLIP that the e-mail arrived via someone going by the name of "Antonio Lemaitre". However, the journalist said the name could be false. The message said, "The time has come for you to pay for your writings." The threat was also extended to the journalist's young daughter.

Ayola told FLIP that she did not know the source of the threats. Her columns usually touched on themes related to political and social issues, human rights and sexuality. Her most recent article in "El Universal" was about gender-based violence.

Ayola noted that several weeks earlier she experienced several odd incidents. She received several strange telephone calls in which the caller asked for her and at one point a man approached her on the street, asked for her name and then ran away.

The Cartagena Metropolitan Police's operations commander, Colonel Jaime Barrera, said that online threats have become a regular occurrence, but he also noted that they "do not underestimate these incidents" and that they have started their verification work and assigned intelligence personnel to Ayola's case to determine the origin of the message sent to her. The colonel also said they are providing the journalist with some protective measures.

FLIP condemns the threats against Ayola and calls on the Cartagena authorities and the Ministries of the Interior and of Justice to provide the journalist with the necessary level of protection. The organisation also calls on the public prosecutor to investigate the threat against Ayola and find those responsible for this attack on press freedom.