The most significant obstacles to freedom of the press during the past six months consisted of acts of attempted intimidation. Meanwhile, for the first time in eight years, no journalists were murdered for reasons related to their work. However, in an appalling incident, a popular newspaper vendor in the city of Santa Marta was murdered for selling a paper that carried news of the capture of paramilitary forces. A climate of fear prevails throughout almost all areas of armed conflict, and a large percentage of the journalists working permanently in those areas admit to exercising self-censorship in reporting news related to guerrilla or paramilitary forces. Officially, reports were received of 22 threats in the port cities of Buenaventura and Barrancabermeja and in the towns of Yopal, Neiva, Ibagué and Cúcuta. The threats forced one journalist into exile. Journalists faced the most serious problems in Cúcuta. Nine journalists there reported having been threatened or assaulted by city officials and by the mayor himself, who is currently in jail for alleged ties to paramilitary forces. Another journalist in Cúcuta was targeted in an attack in which his stepdaughter was killed. In addition to these threats, a total of 14 attacks on journalists by law enforcement officers were reported, and these attacks interfered with media coverage of public events. Significant rulings were handed down in the judicial branch. The first was the closure of part of the investigation into the January 30, 2002 murder of Orlando Sierra, assistant editor of the newspaper La Patria. The prosecution brought charges against two perpetrators and announced that an investigation was launched to determine who had ordered the murder. This measure was denounced by the journalists’ association, which felt that the prosecution had ignored testimony and evidence that pointed to Ferney Tabasco, a local politician, as the person behind the crime. The case was reassigned to a special prosecutor in Manizales. The second important ruling was the release of one of the perpetrators of the December 17, 1986 murder of Guillermo Cano, editor of El Espectador. Luis Carlos Molina Yepes was released alter serving only six years in prison, as a result of the sentence reduction program. Also, the Constitutional Court ruled that a bill that legally recognizes the profession of journalism is valid, but it overturned all articles designed to establish government certification or academic requirements for the practice of journalism. Through judicial maneuvers that in some cases ignore the right to a defense and Constitutional Court rulings, five petitions seeking court protection, two criminal trials, and a libel suit against the magazine Cambio and the newspapers El Tiempo and El Nuevo Día of Ibagué were reported during the past six months. Causing concern in the legislative arena are the reforms to the federal codes on elections, child welfare and taxes. The electoral reforms restrict freedom of speech because they bar the dissemination of advertising and surveys on election days; the reforms of the child welfare code imposes obligations on media outlets in terms of content; and the proposed tax reforms once again introduce a tax on newsprint, circulation, and imported books and magazines, as well as a tax on advertising in small newspapers. Congress has begun to consider a bill that would regulate access to information and establish the possibility of classifying certain information as confidential. This measure was not included in the law and may lead to restrictions on the free practice of journalistic activity. In April, Norberto Antonio Castaño, producer of the news program El Imparcial on the HJ Doble K radio station in Neiva, department of Huila, announced that his life was in danger. Castaño reported that there were armed men outside the radio station, and told the IAPA’s Rapid Response Unit that the threats were probably issued by paramilitary forces or law enforcement officers who believed he was linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). On April 22, Jorge Corredor, producer of a program called “El Pregón del Norte” on the radio station La Voz del Norte in Cúcuta, Norte de Santander, was attacked when an unknown assailant fired shots at him inside his home. The journalist managed to escape, but his 20-year-old stepdaughter was shot and killed. Corredor told the IAPA’s Rapid Response Unit that the mayor of Cúcuta, Ramiro Suárez Corzo, had demanded that the radio station manager take him off the air. “As a condition for continuing my program, they made me sign a statement promising to stop criticizing the mayor,” stated the journalist. The mayor is currently under arrest for ties to paramilitary forces. A police officer demanded that the news director of Vanguardia Liberal in Barrancabermeja hand over photographs of demonstrators attacking law enforcement officers in order to identify the assailants. The newspaper refused. In May, the correspondent for Caracol Noticias in the department of Antioquia was assaulted by a police officer while covering a protest in the municipality of Barbosa. Days earlier, seven journalists were also assaulted by the National Police while covering public demonstrations in Cartagena against the negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement. Journalists from various media outlets reported that they were being pressured by paramilitary forces during the negotiations between the government and paramilitary forces in Santafé de Ralito, located in the region established for the dialogue between the two sides. The paramilitary leaders demanded that they be shown the material to be sent to Bogotá, so that they could make the corrections that they considered appropriate. Colombian and foreign journalists alike denounced the decision of the government to impose requirements, such as accreditation, on journalists wishing to enter the zone for the dialogue with paramilitary forces. Such requirements are an obstacle to the freedom of information. In June, Olga Lucía Cotamo, Ángela Echeverri and Fernando Fonseca, reporters for RCN Radio in Cúcuta, reported that they had been threatened in a leaflet naming them as military targets for sympathizing with the politics of President Alvaro Uribe. “The threat is serious and irreversible,” read the leaflet, which was supposedly signed by a commander of the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group. Journalist Cristian Herrera and photographer Carlos Patiño of the Cúcuta newspaper La Opinión were threatened by an agent of the judicial police, who demanded that they show him the photos they had taken of the transfer of an individual who had been taken into custody at the Cúcuta airport. Cristian Herrera had been threatened by the police chief and mayor of Cúcuta, and as a result was forced to leave the country. On June 17, Luz Dary Mora, a reporter for the local channel Enlace TV of Barrancabermeja, was assaulted during a confrontation between unionists and the National Police. Also attacked in the confrontation were journalists from Canal Caracol and local television stations. In July, Lucio Pabón, a former official in the prosecutor’s office, filed a civil suit and criminal complaint against the newspaper El Tiempo for a report on corruption within the Witness Protection Program, which was under his responsibility. The transmitter at the radio station Fuego Estéreo in Ciénaga, in the department of Magdalena, was bombed. The radio station had not been threatened. The prosecution filed charges against two common criminals for the murder of the assistant editor of La Patria, Orlando Sierra. They were charged as perpetrators of the crime of aggravated homicide. On July 29, the State Council asked the radio station RCN to “adjust the content” of a radio program with strong sexual content aimed at young people. The council argued that the radio program went against “public morality, good customs, values, and the physical and psychological integrity of society.” Germán Hernández, a reporter for the newspaper Diario del Huila, reported that he had been targeted in an intimidation attempt by Juan Pablo Rodríguez Barragán, commander of the Ninth Brigade of Neiva. Hernández told the IAPA’s Rapid Response Unit that after he visited guerrilla-controlled territory, the commander stated that anyone going into that zone was a friend of the guerrilla forces. He then called the newspaper’s manager to warn him that Hernández’s continued presence at the newspaper was not good for relations with the Brigade. The journalist was supported by the newspaper. On August 1, journalist Hollman Morris and an Italian reporter for the BBC in London were detained by the Colombian Navy in the department of Putumayo as they were returning from filming a documentary on the border between Colombia and Ecuador. The sailors, claiming that they needed to check the identity of the journalists, searched the reporters and seized their belongings. The weekly newspaper El Espectador was criticized by the governor of the department of Meta and received anonymous threats after its investigative news editor, Norvey Quevedo, had reported on cost overruns in government contracts. The newspaper El Nuevo Día of Ibagué received an e-mailed threat against the reporter who had written an article on recently murdered paramilitary fighter Miguel Arroyave. The threat said that the price for the statements made against Arroyave would be death. Richard Leguizamo, a journalist for the newspaper Vanguardia Liberal in Valledupar, was threatened by paramilitary forces after writing an article on the death of a renowned indigenous leader of the Kancaumo ethnic group. The journalist was removed from the town by the Press Freedom Foundation. Julio Horacio Bernal, a reporter for Radio Ipiales, was assaulted by a group of indigenous demonstrators while covering a protest at the Rumichaca International Bridge on the border between Colombia and Ecuador. The demonstrators claimed that the local reporters were allied with the mayor of Ipiales. In September, the communications minister shut down Radio Nasa, the first indigenous radio station in Norte del Cauca and recipient of several international awards, for allegedly violating the procedures established by the Ministry of Communications for community radio stations. Luis Alberto Castaño Martínez, news editor at the community radio station Café FM in Líbano, department of Tolima, was forced to leave the area due to a plan by paramilitary forces to murder him. Castaño had been reporting on the selective murders that had been taking place in the region during recent months. Claudia Julieta Duque, a journalist who has been investigating the well-known case of humorist and reporter Jaime Garzón, who was murdered in 1999, reported that she had received phone threats and was followed by vehicles possibly belonging to the Department of Security (DAS). On September 21, Luis Eduardo Gómez, the editor and owner of the magazine Urabá and a columnist at the local newspaper, reported that he had received threats from Arboletes city officials in the department of Antioquia, after he had reported on improprieties in the municipal government. On September 30, Jaime Alberto Madero Muñiz, a popular newspaper vendor in Santa Marta, the capital of Magdalena, was shot three times and killed for selling copies of the local newspaper El Informador that reported on the capture of six known members of paramilitary forces who operated in the region. The vendor had been warned not to announce out loud that particular headline while selling his papers. He did so, and it cost him his life. In October, Luis Carlos Molina Yepes, who had supplied weapons and vehicles to the hired killers who in 1986 murdered El Espectador editor Guillermo Cano, was released after serving only six years in prison, as a result of the sentence reduction program. Molina Yepes earned the reduction of his sentence by performing chores and duties in prison. Molina’s release led the IAPA to issue a statement and was met with condemnation from the journalists’ association and society at large. On October 2, the magazine Semana revealed in an editorial that it had received threats and that the telephones of some of its reporters were being tapped by government security agencies. The threats came after the magazine published excerpts of a conversation between commanders of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia and Luis Carlos Restrepo, the high commissioner for peace. On the same day, John Henry Pava Solarte, son of a former senator and program director at the pop music radio station La Súper Estación, was murdered by hired killers who shot him in the head as he was leaving a night club in the municipality of Yumbo, in Valle del Cauca. His death is not related to his work as a journalist but rather, according to police, was over an unpaid debt. On October 12, the Constitutional Court handed down a ruling in which it recognized journalistic activity as a profession, but overturned all provisions in a bill designed to establish prerequisites, such as an official journalists’ identification card and mandatory government certification. According to the ruling, journalists are defined as those who devote themselves to working with the news, regardless of whether they hold a college degree, and under no circumstances does their recognition as such depend on the government. On March 30, Francisco Antonio Acevedo Rivera, the press chief at the mayor’s office in Aracataca, in the department of Magdalena, was murdered. The journalist had been the director of the Gabriel García Márquez Cultural Center, as well as the founder and an on-air personality at the radio station Macondo Stereo. His murder was not related to his work. In another violent incident that was also unrelated to the practice of journalism, two young disc jockeys for a radio station in Florida, department of Valle, were killed during a carjacking.