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Colombian journalist flees after death threat

 JournalismPakistan.com |  Published May 23, 2024

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Colombian journalist flees after death threat

BOGOTA—Colombian authorities must thoroughly investigate the death threat received by journalist Edward Alvarez, ensure his safety, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

Alvarez, a reporter for the independent online news outlet La Chiva de Uraba in the northern city of Apartado, received a death threat via WhatsApp on May 12, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ.

The sender identified themselves as "Commander Lucas" of the powerful drug-trafficking group The Gaitanista Self Defense Forces of Colombia — called the Gulf Clan by Colombia’s government — and declared Alvarez a "military objective" for publishing a story about one of the group's imprisoned members, according to CPJ's review of the message. "Commander Lucas" warned that if Álvarez continued reporting, his family would also be at risk.

On May 10, La Chiva de Uraba published Alvarez's video interview with an Apartado woman in which she alleged that her jailed former partner was trying to extort her by spreading intimate photos of her on social media.

"Colombian authorities must immediately investigate the death threat received by journalist Edward Alvarez and ensure he can return to Apartado and continue his reporting safely," said Cristina Zahar, CPJ's Latin American program coordinator, in Sao Paulo. "True democracies must guarantee press freedom for all citizens."

Alvarez told CPJ that he reported the threat to the local police and the Attorney General’s office on May 13 and then fled Apartado. "I am very scared," he told CPJ, adding that he did not know when he would return.

The Gaitanista Self Defense Forces of Colombia denied that any of its members threatened Alvarez in a May 12 statement, reviewed by CPJ, and said they were being impersonated, according to those news reports.

The Bogota-based Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) documented four incidents of journalists who received threats from the drug-trafficking group.

CPJ's text messages to the press office of the Attorney General’s office in Bogota did not receive an immediate reply. Major Miguel Gutierrez, chief of the investigative police in the Uraba region that includes Apartado, told CPJ that his agents are investigating and do not yet know who threatened Alvarez. - A CPJ Media Release/Photo: Courtesy of Edward Alvarez

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