FECOLPER: Photojournalist of La Opinión daily found dead and more aggressions from the police against journalists in Colombia

Photojournalist Rafael Bruno Bruno was found dead, shot in the head, at his home, located in Bellavista neighborhood, in the city of Cúcuta, capital of the department of Norte de Santander, in confusing circumstances, last night.

The body of the photojournalist of La Opinión daily was discovered in the patio of his house, where according to versions of neighbors, several gunshots were heard and described as a confrontation.

Bruno arrived home at 9:10 pm in his vehicle. Before that, he spoke to children who frequently visited his home to get candy. Neighbors found it odd Rafael did not go outside his house with a small radio, as he did every night. On another hand, five minutes after he arrived and closed his door, neighbors said small explosions were heard compared to the fireworks used during holidays, dogs were barking and this caused concern among the people who knew him.

After knocking on his door and calling his mobile many times, neighbors contacted the police. Police officers entered Bruno’s house, found his lifeless body face down and a gun in his right hand. It was later informed the gun cylinder had only one cartridge left.

Yesterday was a normal day for Rafael Bruno Bruno. He took photographs of a bridge for a special report that will be published in the Sunday issue, and in the afternoon, before heading home, shared a holiday dinner with colleagues and coworkers of La Opinión, and discussed his plans for upcoming days.

Bruno was born 76 years ago in Salazar de Las Palmas. He was a passionate photographer always hunting for news. His lens captured important moments in the region, such as the demobilization of Catatumbo Block of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia in Tibú, near the end of 2004. Every year, in November, he left to Cartagena to cover the National Beauty Pageant, where he always accompanied the candidate of Norte de Santander.

Bruno was a committed activist in the city of Cúcut. He was the head of several social organizations: National Federation of Traders (FENALCO), Colombian Association of Small Industries (ACOPI) and the National School of Journalists (CNP).

“The Colombian Federation of Journalists and the Center of Solidarity of the International Federation of Journalists, express our condolences to Rafael’s family and colleagues of La Opinión”, said Eduardo Márquez, President and Director of the press organizations. “We also call upon authorities to deliver a serious investigation that does not dismiss the possibility of a murder, as the hypothesis of a suicide is not very believable, if we consider his final hours”.

The death of Rafael Bruno occurs in the midst of a hostile environment of police against journalists of La Opinión. Last Tuesday, December 18, while covering the dislodging of a house, in compliance to a judicial decision requested by a bank, members of the antiriot body of the police, ESMAD, physically and verbally attacked journalism practice student, Marta Forero, photographer Carlos Patiño, William Pantano of APN TV and other colleagues present at the time.

ix days before, on December 12, two other colleagues of La Opinión, photojournalist Gabriela Sierra and journalist Hugo Gonzalez, were pushed by police transit agents when covering the murder of a police intendent. An agent identified by the last name of Alvarez, pushed away journalists, while other officers tried to take away the camera of Sierra. Gonzalez showed his vest identifying him as media worker of La Opinión, but the officer pulled him by the pockets, demanded he show his identification and then sent him to the prosecutor.

Cicerón Florez, sub director of La Opinión daily, alerted the Center of Solidarity of the International Federation of Journalists, on his concern over the current increasing limitations to journalistic coverage of judicial events. Florez pointed out journalists are aware of the legal limits to guarantee judicial investigations, “but the attitude of state forces in Cucuta is not equivalent to what has been legally agreed. As time goes by repressive attitudes and insults from the National Police and attacks ignored by high ranking officers are more common,” he concluded.

Marquez assured these new cases of police aggressions will be presented before the General Prosecutor’s office on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists and those responsible must be sanctioned.

Colombian Federation of Journalists, FECOLPER

FECOLPER represents more than 1000 journalists in 18 departments of Colombia

Center of Solidarity of the International Federation of Journalists

The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 120 countries