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Colombia: Ensure Effective Inquiry Into Attack on Journalist

Gunmen Open Fire on Leading Investigative Reporter’s Car

(Washington, DC) – Colombia should ensure that the investigation into the attack on a leading investigative journalist thoroughly examines possible motives related to his work and identifies all responsible parties, Human Rights Watch said today. On the evening of May 1, 2013, gunmen opened fire on the car driven by Ricardo Calderón, an editor at Semana magazine, Colombia’s main newsweekly, as it was stopped on a road between Ibagué and Bogotá. Five bullets penetrated the body of the vehicle, but Calderón escaped without injuries.

Calderón has in recent years played a key role in exposing major national human rights scandals, including the extravagant privileges enjoyed by prisoners at the Tolemeida military detention center. In April, with a group of journalists fromSemana, Calderón revealed that two years after the Tolemeida scandal initially broke, army members there who had been convicted of committing atrocities continued to benefit from privileges, including the liberty to leave the detention center as they pleased.

“Calderón’s hard-hitting investigative reporting has been crucial to human rights and the rule of law in Colombia,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities should swiftly investigate those responsible for this grave attack on freedom of expression, and hold them to account.”

Calderón’s reporting has included the former intelligence service’s widespread illegal surveillance of government critics and serious irregularities in the paramilitary demobilization process.

The executive director of Semana, Alejandro Santos, said a radio interview that the two gunmen emerged from a vehicle and called out Calderón’s name before opening fire. Santos said that prior to the shooting, Calderón had been subject to surveillance due to his investigative reporting, including the irregularities at Tolemeida. Judicial police said they started to investigate the attack on Wednesday night, Semana reported.

The Foundation for the Liberty of Press (FLIP), Colombia’s leading nongovernmental organization monitoring media freedom, reported 158 aggressive acts against journalists in 2012, including 80 threats and one killing.

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