Colombian man sentenced to 31 years in prison for murders of journalist and two others

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  • January 20, 2016

By Giovana Sanchez

A Colombian court has sentenced a man to prison for the August 2014 killing of journalist Luis Carlos Cervantes in Tarazá, Antioquia department.

Cervantes was under the care of the National Protection Unit, a government entity responsible for protecting journalists at risk, from 2012 to July 2014. The journalist, director of the community radio station Morena FM, had received death threats since 2010, according to the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

According to Noticias RCN, Cervantes had received multiple death threats after publicly denouncing cases of corruption.

The journalist's state protection was removed just weeks before he was killed. The government said it was because of information indicating that there wasn't a link between the threats and Cervantes' work as a journalist, according to the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

The Special Rapporteur also said that the last threat was received 21 days before he died, after Cervantes had supposedly refused to transmit information about criminal groups through the radio.

Javier Vega Osorio, also known as ‘Morroco,’ was sentenced to 31 years in prison for Cervantes’ killing, and for the murders of a former Tarazá deputy mayor and a contractor, according to Noticias Caracol.

Investigators said that members of the Clan Úsuga gang, which Vega Osorio allegedly belongs to, got together in 2013 to plan Cervantes killing, according to Noticias RCN. The Attorney General Office reported the gang that killed Cervantes referred to him as "sapo", a term used to refer to someone that is a informer or a snitch.

Impunity in murders of journalists has been a problem in Colombia. Yet, recent convictions, a decrease in political violence, and a government protection program caused the country to drop off the Committee to Protect Journalist’s (CPJ) Global Impunity Index in 2015, according to the organization. The list ranks countries where murders of journalists go free. For the index, CPJ only considers unsolved murders that occurred in the previous decade for “which journalism is the confirmed motive.”

CPJ has not determined a motive for Cervantes’ murder.

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.