Colombian journalists threatened in drug turf war

The Antioquia Journalism Association, APA, requested protection for some journalists in the city of Medellín, claiming that they are the targets of threats and harassment.

According to the information that APA received, criminal gangs are to blame for the intimidation. As they fight for control of territory and the drug trade in the outskirts of the city, the gangs have kept reporters from covering the violence there.

The most recent case took place on Saturday, Jan. 26, when reporters from regional and national media organizations descended on a neighborhood in the eastern part of Medellín to cover the funeral of a youth killed on a bus two days before. Upon their arrival, a group of men who did not identify themselves demanded the camera operators not record anything and ordered the reporters out.

On Jan. 28, a cameraman for a regional television station was threatened in another neighborhood when a man warned him, "Get out of here if you don't want me to kill you. If you come back here, you'll know what you've got coming," the reporter said.

Violence spiked at the beginning of the year, principally due to a struggle over control of the drug trade, reported the magazine Semana. APA, however, noted that the escalation of the situation "has made journalists covering topics about public order even more vulnerable." The group requested authorities be vigilant for reporters' safety, that journalists take measures to ensure their own protection and that armed groups respect journalism as a "public service that does not take sides in the conflict."

Last year, 16 journalists in Colombia received threats, 10 directly and seven now have personal security, reported the Caracol Radio. One of the most serious cases involved Luis Carlos Cervantes, who has been threatened 15 times and attacked three times, added the broadcaster.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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