Annual Report Practicle Guide The enemis of the Internet Global Press Releases
29 May 2000
Journalist kidnapped

In a letter to Minister of the Interior Humberto de La Calle Londana, RSF protested the kidnapping of Jineth Bedoya, of the "El Espectador" daily, allegedly carried out by members of the paramilitary Colombia United Self Defense Groups (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC). Robert Ménard, RSF's secretary-general, stated that he was "scandalised" by this latest attack on Bedoya. On 23 June 1999, RSF appealed to President Andrés Pastrana on behalf of the journalist after she escaped unharmed from a prior attack. At that time, RSF had asked the president to fulfill his May 1999 promise to implement a programme for the protection of journalists and to provide security for Bedoya. One year after the president's promise, the protection programme has still not been implemented.

According to the information collected by RSF, Bedoya, of the "El Espectador" daily, was kidnapped in Bogotá on 25 May 2000, allegedly by members of the AUC. The journalist was released some ten hours later near the city of Villavencio (113 km south-east of Bogotá). Bedoya reported that her hands were tied up, and she was assaulted and drugged with sedatives. Her captors warned her that they wanted to send "a message" to those journalists who had criticised the AUC's operations. The journalist was kidnapped from in front of the Bogotá National Model Prison where she had gone to investigate the threats received by a number of the "El Espectador" journalists. At the beginning of May, the daily reported on the assassination of twenty-five of the prisoners held at Modelo, who were killed by jailed members of the AUC. On 27 May 1999, Bedoya escaped unharmed from an attack and had previously been repeatedly threatened over her investigations on prison issues.

In the last few years, journalists in Colombia have been facing threats directed at them not by drug traffickers, but by armed groups, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas armadas revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC), the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN), and the AUC. The AUC were responsible for seven of the nine murders of journalists attributed to armed groups since 1995. Considered "military targets", 29 press workers were kidnapped in 1998 and 1999, and nine were forced into exile over the past year. Abducted by the FARC on 22 January, Guillermo Cortés, head of the editorial board of the television news programme Hora Cero, still remains in captivity (see IFEX alerts of 18 and 16 February and 31 January 2000). On 11 March, Francisco Santos, editor-in-chief of the "El Tiempo" daily, was forced into exile after having discovered that the FARC was "planning" to assassinate him (see IFEX alerts of 17 and 14 March 2000).
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