Death threats force journalist to flee Colombia

Mary Luz Avendaño, correspondent for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador, fled the country after receiving death threats, reported the Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP in Spanish).

On Jun. 22, 2011, one of Avendaño's sources warned her that they received a threatening phone call about her reporting. The caller also referenced a May 18 article about a possible connection between the police and drug traffickers in Medellín, Colombia, according to El Espectador.

The police identified paramilitary and drug trafficker Henry de Jesús López, alias "Mi Sangre (My Blood)," as the source of the threats, reported Radio Caracol in July.

Since then, the commander of the Medellín Police, General Yesid Vásquez, released a plan to protect the journalist, according to FLIP. However, intelligence gathered about the drug traffickers confirmed that the threats against Avendaño continued.

Through the support of international organizations like FLIP, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Press and Society Institute, and Reporters without Borders, Avendaño was able to leave Colombia for an indefinite period of time.

Avendaño had worked for Teleantioquia and Hora 13 Noticias covering topics like human rights, armed conflict and drug trafficking, according to El Espectador.

"We journalists should learn how to cover these topics without putting ourselves in danger because they're right in the jaws of the wolf. Like I am now," said Avendaño in an interview conducted in exile with the Red Periodismo de Hoy.

FARC guerrillas kidnapped Avendaño in 1998 while she covered the presidential elections. She is also a member of the journalist protection network Reporters of Colombia, according to the United Kingdom's Catholic Oversees Development Agency.