Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Colombia: Colombian reporter forced to flee her home after months of threats culminate in shooting


Journalist Amalfi Rosales has fled the northeastern department of La Guajira after shots were fired at her home in Barrancas, one of the department's towns, on 2 September.

The correspondent of Radio Noticias Uno and the newspaper Al Día, Rosales has been getting threats for nearly a year. They culminated on 2 September when unidentified gunmen fired three shots at her house.

Rosales filed an immediate complaint about the shooting and forensic investigators based in the neighbouring municipality of Fonseca told Reporters Without Borders that they are conducting an investigation.

But Rosales already reported to the authorities two months ago that she is the target of constant threats. She said she continues to write articles despite the threats, but now she has had had to leave La Guajira to protect herself and her family.

“The threats began in November 2013,” she said. “Once, an unidentified person showed me a gun and told me to shut up, to stop telling tales.”

Of late, she has been covering political scandals involving La Guajira governor José María Ballesteros and the department's former governor, Francisco “Kiko” Gómez, who has been jailed for alleged links with paramilitaries and his suspected involvement in three murders.

The National Protection Unit (UNP) has been in touch with Rosales but has not as yet taken any measures to protect her.

“We call on the UNP to act without delay to guarantee Rosales' security,” said Camille Soulier, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk. “Her flight is just a temporary solution to the risks that she and her family are running. The authorities must conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the source of the threats that have been going on for so long.”

Gonzalo Guillén, a journalist who receives UNP protection because he has repeatedly been threatened in the past, meanwhile fled into his fourth self-imposed exile this week because of renewed concern that he could be murdered.

According to Guillén's sources, former governor Gómez has provided more than 5 billion pesos to buy judges in Bogotá and to pay for the murders of Guillén, fellow journalists León Valencia and Ariel Ávila, and the parliamentarian Claudia López (a former journalist).

Reporters Without Borders already warned that Gómez's arrest would not be enough to end the threat he poses to journalists.

Colombia is ranked 126th out of 180 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders index, released in February.