Press freedom has been affected by continuous threats against journalists and by the parole granted to the hit man who killed the managing editor of La Patria, Orlando Sierra, on January 30, 2002. He had received a 29-year sentence, but was freed after five years because of a series of legal benefits, even though the Code of Criminal Procedure requires heavier sentences for killers of journalists. Javier Darío Arroyave, news director of the show “Ondas del Valle” and contributor to the newspaper El Tiempo, was killed in Cartago, Valle del Cauca, on September 4. The case is being investigated. In six months, the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) reported 32 threats against journalists, especially of the written press and radio stations in the provinces of Huila, Tolima, Norte de Santander, Santander, Arauca, Valle del Cauca, Caquetá and the capital district, Bogotá. These threats caused three journalists to go into exile and eight others left their home regions. There were also reports of obstruction of journalists’ work. Concern has been voiced about reports the fact, reported by some media outlets that legislators and public officials have discredited some news reports and investigations. Some media companies complained after Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos Calderón admitted that various people, including some journalists, such as Hollman Morris, director of the television program “Contravía,” have been under electronic surveillance by members of the National Police intelligence unit. For this reason, President Álvaro Uribe Vélez made drastic changes in the leadership of this agency. The National Police said it was not telephone surveillance, which requires a court order, but a tracking of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is permitted under Article 75 of the Colombian Constitution. In another matter, FLIP did a study for the Electoral Observation Mission (MOE), a nongovernmental organization, about zones of risks for journalists in the regional elections taking place on October 28. FLIP reported situations of risk in 50 municipalities, especially the provinces of Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Arauca and Caquetá, where there have been violations of journalists’ rights. These violations are related to illegal armed groups and could jeopardize the work of journalists on election day. The killers of Efraín Varela Noriega and Luis Eduardo Alfonso were identified during the “version libre” confessions of past crimes by demobilized former paramilitary fighters (AUC) to prosecutors of the Justice and Peace Unit of the attorney general’s office. Varela and Alfonso worked for radio station Meridiano 70 in Arauca and were killed on June 28, 2002, and March 18, 2003, respectively. Andrés Darío Cervantes Montoya, the hit man who killed Varela, was sentenced to 13 years in prison and a fine of 300 monthly minimum wages. The hit man accepted the plea agreement during the proceeding against him for the same crime in the Human Rights Division of the attorney general’s office. This all took place during the process of determining responsibility for crimes against journalists. In May, during the confessions for past crimes, Juan Francisco Prada Márquez, a leader of the former AUC, admitted ordering the killing of Martín La Rotta on February 7, 2004, in Palma, Cesar. Pablo Emilio Quintero, alias Bedoya, admitted killing José Emeterio Rivas on April 6, 2003 in Barrancabermeja, Santander. Juan Pablo Ariza, a candidate for Municipal Council, and Abelardo Rueda Tobón, a candidate to represent Barrancabermeja in the Santander provincial legislature, were arrested and accused of participating in Rivas crime. In May, the IAPA Rapid Response Unit asked the attorney general’s office to include questions about crimes against journalists in the “versión libre” interrogations, under the Law of Justice and Peace. There is a bill in Congress that would prohibit the publication of polls or opinion surveys two weeks before an election. It would also prohibit changing the results or publication of them without verifying their reliability. There are efforts to regulate digital matters with the laudable aim of avoiding abuses. But it is a challenge to balance various human rights: the right to fame, honor, privacy and the right to freedom of information. The Constitutional Court continued to consolidate case law on freedom of information though recent decisions, such as the one that overruled the petition for constitutional protection granted by Judge Jaime Araújo Rentería against columnist Salud Hernández of El Tiempo. The judge ruled that neither the request for a correction nor the petition for relief were filed on time. The court referred to errors of form rather than content. Also, after hearing the petition for constitutional protection by RCN against the Council of State in the case of the RCN program “El Mañanero”, which had been charged with offending public morals with its language, the court ruled that the Communications Ministry sanctions and RCN’s request to adjust its content and establishment of a verification commission were types of censorship. In this case the court cited the social responsibility of the media and the constitution’s prohibition of censorship. In a ruling on freedom of information, the constitutional court made an important analysis of the subject and reiterated that journalists do not have the right to confidential information but public officials do. In March, Germán Hernández, editor of the investigative section of El Dario de Huila, left the city of Neiva. He reported to FLIP that he had received seven threatening calls as of consequence for the publication of reports about alleged corruption at the University Hospital in Neiva. In April, Diego Waldrón, editor of Revista Gente in Barrancabermeja, Santander, reported receiving threats. Waldrón said he thinks the threats may be related to the publication of an article about corruption in the municipal government of Mayor Edgar Cote Gravino. Waldrón also reported that Councilman Daniel Patiño had offered him 25 million pesos not to publish the news about the mayor. Patiño denied the charges. In May several journalists reported that a noncommissioned officer of the army shot into the air to prevent the group from covering a FARC attack on a special forces squad near Tuluá, Valle del Cauca, where 10 soldiers were killed The squad apologized and announced that the case would be investigated. Rodrigo Callejas, a reporter for the radio station Fresno Estéreo in Tolima province, reported to the International Federation of Journalists that a man who identified himself as Luis Alfonso, commander of the Frente Tulio Barón of the FARC, had called him to say, “You are messing with our people and for that reason you are going to die.” He also said he was being followed and watched. In June, Rubén Darío Valencia, editor of the Cali daily Q’hubo was threatened with death after the publication of reports about the arrest of Olmes Durán Ibargüen, alias “the doctor,” a drug dealer. Police said Durán Ibargüen had ordered that the journalist be killed. Durán Ibargüen, also known as “the lord of the Pacific” and “the lord of the ports,” belongs to the organization of drug trafficker Diego Montoya, alias “Don Diego.” Valencia and his family were given police protection. Montoya was caught by the army in September and was taken to a boat in the Pacific Ocean where he was detained while his extradition to the United States was arranged. Olmes Durán Ibargüen also was arrested and is in jail in Cómbita, Boyacá awaiting extradition. In Arauca on the Venezuelan border, the FARC guerrillas are still pressuring some media companies to publicize their announcements. They have threatened that if it is not done they will declare that radio stations Sarare Estéreo and La Voz del Sinaruco are military targets. In August, Juan Pablo Monsalve of the RCN program “La Noche” (The Night) reported getting telephone threats after an investigation he was pursuing about a possible corruption case in Cantagallo, a town in Bolívar province. Monsalve added that the threats could involve the person called “José Bernabé.” Sergio Mondragón of Emisora Cultural of the University of Antioquia received threats for the second time. He had reported about the possibillity of selling the state-owned Liquor Factory of Antioquia. The report was picked up by several national magazines. Mondragón received a pamphlet threatening that he, his wife and his daughter would be killed. In September, executives of La Nación and El Diario de Huila in Huila province said that candidates of the Liberal Colombian Party in provincial elections have said they would not speak to the newspapers or give them advertising. Reporters for the newspapers said their work was obstructed in subsequent weeks. On September 27, Hollman Morris, director of the television program “Contravía,” said he had received an e-mail threat from the so-called Patriotic Colombian Front with the phrase: “For being a snitch, a guerrilla,,,any time now.” It had a photograph of him that had been crossed out. Morris has broadcast several reports on forced evictions and paramilitary forces. Amparo Bernal and Julia Navarrete of Caracol Noticias and cameramen Juan Carlos Gerena and Carlos Andrés García said they were attacked in the Uni II housing project in Bogota after reporting that a former councilman had cheated poor families in the sale of housing.