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LATIN AMERICA

Murder of Colombian journalist sullies local election campaign

Reporters’ association calls for more security measures in wake of Flor Alba Núñez’s death

Murdered journalist Flor Alba Núñez.
Murdered journalist Flor Alba Núñez.

Colombian journalists are calling for greater security measures and legal safeguards to help them do their job after a 31-year-old reporter was killed by gunmen as she arrived at the radio network where she worked on Thursday.

Flor Alba Núñez was the head of La preferida estéreo radio station in Pitalito, southwest Colombia, and also wrote for newspapers and appeared on several local TV stations.

“She was a well-known journalist who stood out for exposing unlawful activities,” says Pedro Vaca, director of the Free Press Foundation (FLIP).

Vaca is urging authorities to be swift in finding the perpetrators, noting that the statute of limitations has already expired in more than 45 percent of homicide investigations involving murdered journalists. “They missed the opportunity to try the perpetrators in more than 60 cases. We are worried about impunity.”

The Latin American country remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work

The Colombian government has offered a $35,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the person who shot Núñez. Surveillance camera footage at the site where she was murdered is the key piece of evidence authorities are using to find the murderer and their accomplice.

FLIP, an organization whose stated mission includes “developing activities that contribute to protecting journalists and the media,” said Núñez had not reported any recent threats, but that in the last few hours, it had received information suggesting that the reporter had been pressured on some issues related to the country’s upcoming local and regional elections, which are due to be held on October 25.

“One of the theories they are working on after analyzing the information is precisely that electoral connection,” said Vaca, a few days after his foundation published a map of Colombia highlighting the most dangerous areas for journalists during election campaigns. According to the map, border areas away from the center of the country are especially dangerous for reporters. “Local journalism is usually vulnerable in the last few days before elections. There is a lot of pressure,” he noted.

Video footage of the moments before Flor Alba Núñez’s death.

According to FLIP, one the motives behind Núñez’s murder could be an article with photos that she recently published about a criminal gang.

Meanwhile, Colombian authorities have not revealed any details about the case, and are instead waiting for information from an elite group of investigators who are working on various leads.

“I want to urge the national government to provide protection for journalists,”  said journalist José Ignacio Valencia during a peaceful march to call for justice for Núñez on Saturday. “We cannot keep racking up the deaths as we are in this country.”

The Latin American country remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work. Over the last 15 years, 144 reporters have been killed and 126 cases of assault against journalists were reported between January and August of this year.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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