Reporters Without Borders

Seventh break-in at journalist's home, intelligence agency suspected

Seventh break-in at journalist’s home, intelligence agency suspected

Published on Wednesday 25 May 2011.
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Ignacio Gómez, the co-producer of the "Noticias Uno" news programme on state-owned TV station Canal Uno, believes that Colombia’s leading intelligence agency, the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), was responsible for yesterday’s break-in at his Bogotá apartment, the seventh in the past decade.

The break-in, which took place while Gómez was out, was executed by two men and a woman with sophisticated apparatus. They were in the process of forcing the front door but fled when they realized they had been spotted by neighbours. Burglars took Gómez’s personal computer, document and USB flash drives during a previous break-in last year, when he was working on stories involving former President Alvaro Uribe’s children.

At the time of yesterday’s break-in attempt, Gómez was participating as president of the Bogota-based Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP) in a public debate in which he said there had been no let-up in telephone tapping (“chuzadas”) and other illegal practices by the DAS.

Yesterday, Gómez also attended the presentation of a FLIP submission to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights supporting the complaint filed by Jineth Bedoya of the daily El Espectador, who was kidnapped, tortured and raped in May 2000.

Ruling out the possibility that ordinary burglars were responsible for yesterday’s break-in, Gómez said the DAS had been trying to harass and intimidate him since 2002. He has been the target of two physical attacks and has had to spend time in exile. He and other journalists are named in DAS files.

“Ignacio Gómez is one of the journalists who openly criticised the ‘democratic security’ policy launched during President Uribe’s two terms, from 2002 to 2010,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Like him, we do not think this was an ordinary burglary. It bears all the hallmarks of the intelligence services, whose dirty tricks and abuses we have long criticized.”

The press freedom organization added: “It is impossible not to suspect that these repeated break-ins were acts of espionage. The judicial authorities should lose no time in investigating the latest of these cases, which call for a thorough overall of the intelligence services. It is time to put a stop to these methods.”

In a similar break-in at freelance journalist Gonzalo Guillén’s Bogotá home on 1 May, his computer and a hard disk were removed. They contained information implicating the armed forces in corruption and in extra-judicial killings known as “false positives” because the victim is falsely portrayed as having belonged to a guerrilla organization.

In a separate development, the Colombian judicial authorities yesterday issued a warrant for the arrest of former DAS chief María del Pilar Hurtado, who was granted political asylum in neighbouring Panama last November.

Reporters Without Borders, which condemned Panama’s decision to grant her asylum at the time, urges the Panamanian authorities to approve Colombia’s request for her extradition.

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