It is noteworthy that reports on political and/or administrative corruption have become a growing factor in violence against journalists. In fact, of the five journalists who were murdered last year for their work, three were killed in retaliation for their reporting on corruption. Four journalists were murdered in the last six months in Colombia. Two of them, William Soto Cheng and Oscar Alberto Polanco, were killed for reasons related to their profession — specifically, for reporting on political and administrative corruption in the province of Valle del Cauca. In the cases of the other two who were killed, Zully Ester Godina and Martín La Rotta, the motives have not yet been determined. Twelve journalists were threatened in various regions of the country by guerrillas, paramilitary forces and government officials as well. The oil port of Barrancabermeja on the Magdalena River became an especially dangerous place for reporters to work. Five journalists were threatened, one has disappeared, one was kidnapped and abused, and another was threatened by a battalion colonel in that city. In the legislative arena, for the second time in less than a year, the Constitutional Court sent back to Congress the bill that would elevate journalism to the status of a profession. It is hoped that Congress will guarantee the confidentiality of journalistic sources when it takes up the regulations concerning the anti-terrorist law that was passed last year. There is concern over these regulations, which allow telephone calls to be tapped without a warrant, among other provisions. Congress repealed the prohibition on the media from revealing the identity of any person arrested without a warrant in the first 72 hours. The IAPA had urged Congress to repeal this ban during its assembly in Chicago. In legal developments, Julio César Ardila, the mayor of Barrancabermeja, was released due to lack of evidence. Ardila had been arrested on suspicion of ordering the April 7, 2003 murder of journalist José Emeterio Rivas. The IAPA Rapid Response Unit in Colombia collaborated with the Attorney General’s Office in identifying the status of legal proceedings in the cases of more than 50 journalists murdered for reasons related to their work in the past ten years. The investigation by the RRU has revealed that 15 of these cases are still in preliminary phases, and seven others have been suspended. This is part of an overall environment of impunity, especially for those who order crimes to be committed against the press. The most significant events during this period, in chronological order, are as follows: Two amateur photographers, Lucy Amparo and Omar Eduardo Arango, were murdered in the same week of October in the province of Valle del Cauca. The murders were not related to journalistic work, but they reflect the widespread violence that continues to prevail in the country. Five journalists were threatened: Yaneth Montoya of Vanguardia Liberal in the Port of Barrancabermeja, by the paramilitary forces for her reporting on the status of public order; Pedro Javier Galvis of the weekly La Noticia, also in Barrancabermeja, who was accosted by two men on a motorcycle who told him he had one week to leave the area; Manuel Fernando Pereira and Adriana Payán of the news program CNC Noticias, after they published reports on improper management of campaigns in Cauca province; and Francisco Terán, news director at Cadena Todelar in the city of Pasto. Veteran radio reporter Zully Ester Codina Pérez was murdered on November 11 in Santa Marta, Magdalena. Two hired killers shot her four times as she was leaving her home for Central Hospital, where she worked and served as a union leader. Zully Codina had been working as a radio reporter for 25 years. She hosted a program featuring opinion and regional news on Radio Rodadero of Cadena Todelar radio network in Colombia. The program made its final broadcast three days before her death. The exact motives of the crime have not been established, as Codina was also very active in her union. Adriana Cuellar, head of the Communications Department of the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective, was threatened by the paramilitary forces. Three threats were left on Cuellar’s home answering machine, which said, “Big-mouthed bitch… you’re gonna die, will fix you along with your family.” Beatriz Elena Mantilla, a reporter for the newspaper Vanguardia Liberal in Barrancabermeja, received a call from Col. Ricardo Bernal, commander of the Nueva Granada Battalion. According to Mantilla, Bernal told her, “As of today I declare you persona non grata in the battalion… and I will make sure that the state law enforcement authorities know just what kind of person you are.” An article on the coverup of the accidental death of a soldier was the reason for the incident because, according to Mantilla, the colonel felt that this news item was featured more prominently than President Uribe’s visit around the same time to Barrancabermeja. Ricardo Perea Vargas, a reporter for the environmental magazine Regeneración, was detained for 48 hours by police intelligence agents after attempting to enter Colombia over the Venezuelan border. His work materials were seized and he was kept in isolation. The authorities said that Perea was carrying materials of the FARC. In December, Lisandro Duque, a columnist for the newspaper El Espectador and also a film director, was sentenced to three days in jail and ordered to pay the equivalent of five months’ minimum wage for disobeying a court order to publish a correction. On April 13, 2003, in his regular column titled “The Divine and the Human,” Duque questioned the actions of the president of a film company, who then filed a lawsuit alleging that Duque’s statements had damaged her reputation and good name. After a two-year trial, proceedings concluded on December 10 in the case of the alleged murderers of journalist and satirist Jaime Garzón. The judge will soon hand down the sentence and rule whether those charged by the prosecution with being the mastermind (paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño Gil) and perpetrators (Juan Pablo Ortiz Agudelo and Edilberto Antonio Sierra Ayala) are guilty in the high-profile murder case. William Soto Cheng, a reporter for the local television station Telemar in Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca, was murdered on December 18. Two individuals on a motorcycle shot him four times. Soto had worked as a journalist for 16 years. He hosted the radio program “Pacific Coast” and had denounced a case of electoral fraud involving members of the Armed Forces. He was murdered for his work as a journalist. In response to the lawsuit seeking judicial relief against the newspaper El Liberal of Popayán, the Constitutional Court upheld the watchdog role of journalism in ruling that judges deciding cases of libel and defamation must understand that journalistic phrases such as presunto responsable (literally “presumed culprit,” the Spanish equivalent of “alleged culprit”) mean that the person is under investigation, even though the phrase is legally imprecise or inaccurate, since a person is always presumed to be innocent under the rule of law. The court reiterated the importance of carefully handling news on court matters. On December 30, José Luis Ahumada, a manager at the Radio Galeón radio station in Santa Marta, Magdalena province, was injured in an assault. Ahumada is the son of Rodrigo Ahumada Bado, a journalist who was murdered in 1991, and the brother of another radio executive, Rodrigo Alfonso Ahumada, who was killed two years ago in a hired hit. The Administrative Court of Santander upheld a trial court ruling that ordered police to pay Javier Santoyo, a reporter for the Caracol television network in Bucaramanga, 14 million pesos for damage caused to his recording equipment while he was covering a news event in June 2001. Mayor Julio César Ardila of Barrancabermeja, who had been arrested on suspicion of ordering the April 7, 2003 murder of journalist José Emeterio Rivas, was released. The prosecution stated that it had not found enough evidence to put Ardila on trial. On January 28, 2004, Inés Peña, the host of a segment titled “Culture for Life” on the television program “La Mohana” in Barrancabermeja, was kidnapped and threatened in an effort to force her out of journalism. Two armed paramilitary figures forced her into a vehicle, where they proceeded to torture her. Peña had reported on the arrival of the paramilitary forces in the region and on human rights violations. On February 4, 2004, during a forum on the media and armed conflict, the defense minister, peace commissioner and assistant interior minister made statements to the effect that journalists should be more patriotic and act as the nation’s soldiers in the armed conflict. Their statements were met with condemnation. The same day as the forum, Oscar Alberto Polanco Herrera, news director at the cable channel CNC in Cartago, Valle del Cauca, was murdered. Polanco was approached by two hitmen riding on a motorcycle as he was leaving the channel’s offices. They shot him twice in the head. Polanco, a reporter with more than 12 years’ experience, was the daily host of the news program “CNC Noticias” and the segment called “News on the Leaders,” where he stated his opinions on various local political issues. Known in Cartago for his blunt-spoken reporting and his work for local communities, he had expressed his disapproval of some government officials in Cartago. His murder was for reasons related to his work. It is noteworthy that alliances have been formed in that region among drug traffickers, the paramilitary forces, and local politicians. The mayor of Cartago himself is under investigation because some land belonging to a known drug trafficker appeared under his name. On February 7, Guillermo Herrera Morales, a news photographer for El Tiempo and Llano 7 Días, was injured when the FARC opened fire on the helicopter in which he was riding with the governor of Meta and other government officials. Herrera was shot in the leg after covering the governor’s visit to the municipality of San Juanito. On February 7, Martín La Rotta Duarte, manager and owner of the radio station La Palma Estéreo in San Alberto, in the province of César, was stabbed to death in his home. Duarte had not received any threats. The radio station had no news programs, and Duarte hosted musical and cultural segments. His murder was not related to his profession. The situation for journalists in Barrancabermeja worsened in February. Sports reporter Fabián Eduardo Morales, of the program “Front-Page News” on the local television channel Tele Petróleo, was reported missing. Also, Diego Waldrón Guerrero and Garibaldy López, who host the radio program “Hot Off the Presses” on the radio station Calor Estéreo, reported that they had received death threats. Another reporter who worked at the same station, José Emeterio Rivas, was murdered in April 2003. These journalists were threatened by government officials whom they had criticized on the air. Cristian Herrera, a reporter for La Opinión in Cúcuta, reported to the IAPA in March that he had been threatened by the mayor and police chief of North Santander. The threats were made after Herrera published an article on the increase in car theft in Cúcuta. The mayor warned Herrera that he would sue him and accused him of being a “terrorist.” Herrera has the mayor’s words on tape. He also reported that the police chief offered to give two paid days off to any agent who could catch him committing a crime. On March 9, the Attorney General’s Office closed the criminal investigation of journalist Roberto “Dártagnan” Posada for libel and defamation, after a claim was filed by businessman Pedro Juan Moreno for two columns that appeared in the newspaper El Tiempo. Moreno requested a correction, and Posada complied with this request to the satisfaction of the Superior Court of Bogotá. On March 9, a criminal court judge in Bogotá sentenced paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño to 38 years in prison for ordering the August 13, 1999 murder of journalist and satirist Jaime Garzón Forero in Bogotá. However, the judge acquitted the defendants charged with carrying out the murder.