Alerts   |   Colombia

Colombian journalist shot dead by unidentified gunman

(El Meridiano de Cordoba)

New York, March 22, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists urges Colombian authorities to fully investigate the death of journalist Clodomiro Castilla Ospino, left, who was shot on Friday by an unidentified gunman in the northern city of Montería, according to local press reports.

Castilla, 50, editor and publisher of local newsmagazine El Pulso del Tiempo, was reading a book outside his home in Montería around 9 p.m., when an unidentified gunman shot him at least eight times, local press reports said. A second man picked up the attacker and they reportedly fled on a motorcycle. Castilla died at the scene of the crime.

According to local journalists who spoke to CPJ, Castilla had received numerous threats for at least four years in retaliation for his coverage of the links among local politicians, landowners, and illegal right-wing paramilitary groups.

Local press freedom group Foundation for the Press Freedom (FLIP) said in a statement Saturday that from 2006 to 2009 the Colombian Government had given Castilla protection due to the abundant threats against him. In November 2009, however, the Ministry of Interior denied Castilla protection based on procedural safety studies by the national intelligence agency that indicated he was no longer under threat, according to FLIP.

A local journalist, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, told CPJ that shortly before his death, Castilla had reported on the alleged participation of a local landowner in the murder of a Montería-based lawyer, corruption in local government agencies, and the supposed links between paramilitaries and local government officials. CPJ research has found that most local journalists don’t cover similar issues for fear of reprisal.

The local press reported that the Colombian National police, in charge of the investigation, has not yet disclosed possible motives or identified any suspects. 

“We call on Colombian authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate the killing of Clodomiro Castilla Ospino, and we ask them to examine whether the Ministry of Interior ended his protection prematurely,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy director. “Provincial reporters are particularly at risk and often refrain from reporting on sensitive subjects. Castilla courageously did not practice self-censorship, and his murder highlights the need for authorities to show their commitment to protecting the press.”

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez condemned the killing and offered a reward of 50 millions Colombian pesos (US$26,000) for information on the crime, the local press reported.

In its 2009 year-end analysis, CPJ found that at least 68 journalists worldwide were killed for their work during the year, the highest yearly tally ever documented by the organization. One of the year’s victims was Colombian journalist José Everardo Aguilar, 72, a correspondent for Radio Súper in the southern city of Patía, who was shot to death inside his home on April 29. He was known for his harsh criticism of corruption and making links between local politicians and right-wing paramilitary groups.

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