Reporters Without Borders

Black Eagles step up threats against journalists and NGOs, authorities slow to react

Black Eagles step up threats against journalists and NGOs, authorities slow to react

Published on Monday 21 March 2011.
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Reporters Without Borders has obtained a copy of a new message from the “central column” of the Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles) paramilitary group voicing threats against journalists, civil society figures and NGOs.

Dated 14 March and sent from a Gmail account in the name of “fenixaguilasnegras,” the message promises the “extermination” and “purge” of a wide range of organizations, including women’s groups, peasant and Afro-Colombian associations and human rights NGOs, many of whose representatives or members have been the victims of paramilitary terror in the past.

Five journalists are identified again as “military targets.” They are Hollman Morris, the producer of the current affairs TV programme "Contravía"; Daniel Coronell, the former head of "Noticias Uno" who has been a vice-president of the US TV station Univisión since January; Marcos Perales Mendoza, the editor of the Bucaramanga-based newspaper Periódico Portada; Claudia Julieta Duque of Radio Nizkor and Eduardo Márquez González, the president of the Colombian Federation of Journalists.

The Colombian Federation of Journalists (FECOLPER) is one of the organizations named in the message, which, according to our information, was sent from the United States. We therefore hope that US law-enforcement agencies will cooperate with their Colombian counterparts in identifying the sender.

“We have people working at the national level and so we know where they are and where they work, and we will locate them,” the message said. According to FECOLPER, three days after the message was sent, Mónica Arcella of Enlace TV, a local station based in Barrancabermeja (in the eastern department of Santander), received a phone call ordering her to leave the city or be killed by a local paramilitary group called “Los Urabeños.”

Arcella, who has filed a complaint about the phone call, recently reported that “Los Urabeños” had gained control of infrastructure and public services in a working-class district of Barrancabermeja.

“Must we remind the Colombia authorities of the 45,000 people who disappeared and the thousand large-scale massacres of civilians by paramilitaries during the past decade in order to obtain an appropriate reaction to this threat?” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is no longer necessary to demonstrate that the ‘demobilization’ of these criminal, anti-democratic groups was a failure, if indeed any demobilization ever took place. Impunity is encouraging more terror, as this new message indicates.” Read the recent Reporters Without Borders report on organized crime.

Impunity is the title of a new documentary that Hollman Morris made with Swiss-Colombian filmmaker Juan Lozano, which won a special mention when it was screened at the International Human Rights Film Festival and Forum in Geneva on 11 March (website in three languages: http://www.impunitythefilm.com/). It condemns the disgraceful amnesty which the paramilitaries obtained under the misnamed Justice and Peace Law of 2005.

This preview subtitled in English contains shocking images

Violence and attempted lynching Reporters Without Borders is meanwhile concerned about several cases of hysterical violence against journalists in the provinces in the past few days. These attacks call for sanctions, especially as the identity of those responsible is for the most part known.

In one case, reporter Ana Mercedes Ariza and cameraman Armando Camelo of state-owned Canal Uno TV were attacked on 19 March in Santander department by about 20 individuals who blamed the media for a decision by the Canadian company Greystar to pull out of a proposed gold mining project. Ariza was hospitalized with serious head, arm and leg injuries and shock.

Olberg Escobar of Radio Lumbí narrowly escaped lynching on 19 March in the west-central department of Tolima over his coverage of a social conflict. Camilo Uribe Carriazo, the head of local Radio Chipilín, was attacked outside the town hall of San Marcos, in the northern department of Sucre, on 16 March, apparently because of his corruption allegations. A stone thrown by the mayor’s brother-in-law reportedly hit him on the head.

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