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Colombian radio director killed after receiving threats

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Journalists protest the murder of Colombian reporter Luis Carlos Cervantes. (AFP/Raul Arboleda)

New York, August 13, 2014--Colombian authorities should immediately investigate the murder of a journalist on Tuesday and apprehend the killers, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Luis Carlos Cervantes Solano had received threats related to his reporting since 2010, according to news reports.

Unidentified gunmen shot Cervantes, who was on a motorcycle, in the municipality of Tarazá in the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia state, according to news reports. Cervantes was the director of the community radio station Morena FM and, until August 2013, the local correspondent for the television program "Teleantioquia Noticias."

The Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom, or FLIP, reported that Cervantes had filed at least five complaints since 2012 to the national attorney general's office in relation to threats he said he received. The attorney general's office granted him police protection that same year. Cervantes said the threats began in 2010 when he reported for "Teleantioquia Noticias" on corruption in the local government and alleged connections between local authorities and the notorious criminal group Los Urabeños, according to FLIP. In late 2013, he told FLIP he was abandoning his news reports for musical programming as a result of ongoing threats.

On June 5 of this year, the committee that evaluates whether journalists are at risk and chooses whether to provide them with protection decided to withdraw his security detail because it determined Cervantes was no longer practicing journalism, according to FLIP. That decision took effect on July 24, according to FLIP.

But earlier that same week, on July 21, Cervantes said a man came to his home and ordered him to transmit a particular news story on the radio station, according to the daily El Colombiano. The daily did not offer further details about the content of the news item. The paper said Cervantes refused and the next day received a text message telling him he had two hours to leave the municipality. Cervantes briefly left Tarazá and when he came back protested that his police protection had been pulled.

Andrés Villamizar, director of the National Protection Unit, which oversees protection for Colombians who have been threatened, told reporters Tuesday that the earlier decision had been made to withdraw the journalist's protection because it could not determine that he was still practicing journalism or that the threats were related to journalism.

"It is distressing that Luis Carlos Cervantes Solano was murdered after years of speaking out about repeated threats against him," said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's Deputy Director. "Colombian authorities must get to the bottom of this crime, fully investigate all possible motives, and bring those responsible to justice."

Journalists reporting on sensitive issues like the country's decades-long armed conflict, crime, and corruption faced renewed violence and intimidation in recent years, according to CPJ research. Cauca is a particularly dangerous place to practice the profession.

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