COLOMBIA A surge in violence and intimidation against journalists has marked the last six-month period. Three journalists were murdered because of their work, dozens have been threatened by guerrillas or paramilitaries and seven had to leave the country over the past half year. Owing to the country's mounting armed conflict, there is a growing climate of intolerance, intimidation and polarization which affects the free practice of the profession in a troubling way. Following is the chronological order of the main incidents: March 24: The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group sent a packaged bomb to the home of El Espectador columnist Plinio Mendoza. The device was detected before it exploded. The ELN described Mendoza as a "propagandist for state and paramilitary violence." The rebel group also announced to the media that they foster "state violence as a military goal." Although all the country's press organizations denounce the ELN's assault on Mendoza, the guerrilla group issued a statement later confirming its threats against journalists. April 12: Sur 30 Dias editor Hernando Rangel Moreno was shot dead by a hired gunman in Plato, in the department of Magdalena. Rangel was also a radiO newscaster and, as a community leader, was organizing a general strike. Initial conjectures about the murder center on his work with the community and his coverage of local political corruption. April 13: A reporter and cameraman for the NTC news program were wounded when guerrillas shot down the helicopter carrying them and police officers to San Pablo, in the department of Bolivar. The helicopter was on an anti-narcotics operation in the area. April 15: Authorities arrested the alleged gunmen in the 1992 New York killing of Cuban-American journalist Manuel de Dios Unanue, who had been the editor of the Manhattan-based daily La Prensa. The murder was attributed to the Cali cartel for the paper's coverage of drug trafficking. May: A bill to reform the criminal code triggered an outcry because it entailed jail terms for journalists who disclosed sealed court documents. The intensity of the reaction by journalists' organizations halted the passage of the bill in Congress. May 24: Jorge Rivera Serna, a reporter for the Cartagena daily Universal, was abducted by a paramilitary group in the south of the department of Bolivar. Rivera was freed one week later after having been beaten and pressured to denounce guerrillas in his news reports. The reporter said he was leaving journalism because of the lack of safeguards for freedom of expression. In September, he left the country. June 25: Reporter Juan Carlos Aguilar and cameraman Javier Jaramillo, of the RCN television news program, had to leave the country after they and their families drew numerous death threats in Pereira, where they lived. The threats followed the coverage of a lynching during a riot in the neighboring city of Chinchina. The footage led to the arrest of the those responsible for the killing. June 30: The Committee to Protect Journalists of the Colombian capital criticlzed the FARC guerrilla raids of the lodgings housing journalists who covered peace talks with the rebels in the San Vicente del Caguan area. The FARC had entered and searched the journalists' rooms. July 2: Carlos Pulgarin, the Monteria correspondent for El Tiempo, drew threats from paramilitary groups for his coverage of fighting in the area. After repeated threats, the newspaper transferred him to another city. August 11: Agents for the prosecutors' office raided the Bogota premises of El Diario Deportivo to expropriate the paper because one of its shareholders was under investigation for ties to the narcotics trade. August 13: Journalist and comedian Jaime Garzon was shot by two gunmen in central Bogota as he was going to work at the Radionetradio station. The killing of the enormously popular Garzon prompted one of the largest mass demonstrations in rpodern Colombian history. The murder probe has yielded no leads yet. Two Radionet network journalists covering their colleague's murder received death threats at home and at work. August 24: The so-called Rebel Colombian Army issued death threats against 21 persons, including intellectuals, social scientists, labor union officials and journalists. The death threat list circulated among news organizations and its threatened targets include columnists Patricia Lara, Alfredo Molano, Alejandro Reyes Posada and Arturo Alapa, who the group said "fanned hate and class struggle among Colombians." August 27: The National Television Commission suspended a top-rated program, "Maria C. Contigo," because its material was unsuitable during a time slot when families watch television. The program obtained a court injunction and returned to the air one week later. September 2: Two journalists and three cameramen for the RCN and Caraeol networks were held for five days, along with other captives, during the guerrilla takeover of the hydroelectric station in Anchicaya in the department of Antoquia. September 16: German Quintero Torres, news editor of the regional newspaper El Pilon and correspondent for "Tele Caribe" news program, was shot dead by a hired gunman. Quintero Torres had received threats after the publication of stories on the "United Colombian Self-Defense" paramilitary group. On September 29, two suspects were arrested for the murder. September 27: El Espeetador announced that its editor, Rodrigo Pardo, was stepping down. The development stunned the media, and columnists from various newspapers affirmed that Pardo's exit was due to government pressures on the Grupo Empresarial Bavaria, a conglomerate that bought a majority of the newspaper's stocks in 1997. October 4: The Attorney General's Office announced the creation of a special unit charged with investigating and solving the murders of Colombian journalists. The development was motivated by concerns expressed by the IAPA in connection with the April 12 murder of reporter Hernando Rangel Moreno. About this case, the Attorney General's office said it had solid information regarding those who might be responsible for the killings and their possible motives. October 8: El Tiempo investigative journalist and columnist Alejandro Reyes left the country after receiving repeated death threats. Reyes, a specialist in agrarian matters, had published works on land tenure in areas dominated by guerrillas or paramallitaries. That same week, El Tiempo columnist Hernando Corral, who also was deputy editor of the "News at Seven" program, left the country for Germany for similar reasons.