Journalists Killed  |  Colombia

José Emeterio Rivas

Radio Calor Estéreo

April 6, 2003, in Barrancabermeja, Colombia

Police found the bullet-riddled body of radio commentator Rivas, host of the morning program "Fuerzas Vivas" (Live Forces), on a road outside Barrancabermeja, according to news reports and CPJ interviews.

In the weeks prior to his death, Rivas accused then-Mayor Julio César Ardila Torres and other local officials of corruption and collaboration with members of the right-wing paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), according to CPJ research. Diego Waldrón, a colleague, told CPJ that Rivas had received repeated death threats.

Nearly six years later, a court in the northern province of Santander convicted Ardilla and two former public works officials of plotting the murder. On January 15, 2009, the court sentenced Ardila to 28 years and eight months in prison on charges of aggravated murder and conspiracy, according to a statement issued by the attorney general's office. Former public works officials Fabio Pajón Lizcano and Abelardo Rueda Tobón were sentenced to 26 years and eight months in prison apiece on aggravated murder charges. Ardila was also fined 1,192 million pesos (US$531,000).

The three were the first masterminds to be convicted and imprisoned in a journalist killing in Colombia since 1992, CPJ research shows.

In a statement, the attorney general's office said Rivas was murdered in retaliation for his reports on official corruption and links between Ardila's administration and right-wing paramilitary groups. A fourth defendant, Juan Pablo Ariza Castañeda, was acquitted.

Ardila, Pajón, and Lizcano had faced allegations in the case as early as September 2003, according to CPJ research. In 2007, the human rights unit of the attorney general's office restarted the investigation after a demobilized paramilitary fighter Pablo Emilio Quintero Dodino confessed to shooting Rivas at the behest of the local officials.

Quintero, a one-time member of the AUC, made the statement during Law of Justice and Peace proceedings. The law grants leniency to members of illegal armed groups in exchange for demobilization and full confessions to their crimes. Quintero was convicted of engaging in paramilitary activities but not in the killing itself.

Rivas' body was found alongside another male victim, according to CPJ interviews. The relationship between Rivas and the other victim was not clear, local police commander Col. Jorge Gil told CPJ.


Medium: Radio

Job: Columnist / Commentator

Beats Covered: Corruption, Politics

Gender: Male

Local or Foreign: Local

Freelance: No

Type of Death: Murder

Suspected Source of Fire: Government Officials, Paramilitary Group

Impunity: No

Taken Captive: No

Tortured: No

Threatened: Yes


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