Two unknown men who identified themselves as FARC fighters, arrived yesterday at 1 am to the Para Mi Hotel, in Planadas, Tolima, 352 km south of Bogotá, to threaten independent journalist, Afranio Franco Ballesteros. The two armed men intimidated the colleague and his cameraman and store their equipment, identification documents and money.
In another incident, Diego Waldrón, director of the monthly magazine Gente, of the oil port of Barrancabermeja, located 403 km north of Bogotá, received a threatening phone call on Wednesday morning. He was told: “For bothering, what happened to Ricaurte in San Mateo is going to happen to you”. The comment made reference to the leader of the wars of independence who died in an explosion.
In a distressing phone call to Ceso-FIP, journalist Franco Ballesteros, asked for help to leave the municipality of Planadas, as the closest population, Chaparral, is 6 hours away and he fears for his life. The two alleged guerilla fighters questioned his presence in the municipality and ordered Ballesteros to stay in the room, until he received an order to leave from the insurgent commander.
The equipment robbed was two video camcorders the journalist used to make institutional videos of the municipalities, a DVD and identification documents of both, journalist and cameraman.
Meanwhile, Waldrón also fears for his safety, since he believes the threat is related to the articles published in the fourth edition of Gente, denouncing irregular contracts of the mayor of Barrancabermeja, Edgar Cote. According to Diego Waldrón, the politician granted several contracts to the majorities in the city’s council and some funding ended up in the foundation of the mayor’s wife.
In addition, Waldrón said to Ceso FIP, the candidate for mayor, Daniel Patiño, supported by the current mayor, offered 25 million pesos to not have the 3000 editions of the magazine published. The magazine was sold out in just one day and announced the contracts mentioned would be disclosed in the next edition.
Regarding the two new aggressions against press freedom, Eduardo Márquez, Ceso-FIP Director, said: “The situation of our two colleagues is of great concern. We contacted the Ministry of Domestic Affairs to ask authorities to transfer Afranio, since the Planadas police fears there will be an attack from the guerrilla and to protect Daniel”.
He added: “Many complaints have been made about the mayor of Barrancabermeja by colleagues who are simply doing their job denouncing the irregularities of the administration and are frequently threatened. It is time to have the law take over this population impacted by every type of violence and the International Federation of Journalists will call on authorities for guarantees.”
However, we remain alarmed, as another colleague, Diro Cesar González, director of La Tarde newspaper, submitted to authorities a photograph and name of a paramilitary who tried to kill him last year, to the Vicepresident of Colombia and the aggressor, José del Carmen Arévalo Quintero, alias, “Pata de Palo” or “El Toche”, walks freely the streets of the oil port.
Center of Solidarity