COLOMBIA The Colombian press continues to experience both acts of violence by outlaw groups and official limitations by state entities. Four journalists were murdered in the past six months. In addition, the Ernesto Samper government's controversial television law went into effect and several measures by the newly-formed National Commission on Television have provoked strong criticism because of their restrictive nature. The following are the principal events affecting press freedom in the past six months: March 18: Freddy Elles, a freelance photographer who worked for three newspapers, was murdered in Cartagena. Elles, who also worked as a cabdriver at night, was found dead in his taxi. His murder was initially thought motivated by robbery, but the form of the crime - he was found handcuffed, on his knees, and stabbed - has suggested the possibility that the murder was in retaliation for his work as a photographer. March 20: Gerardo Bedoya, opinion page editor of El PalS of Cali, was murdered by a hired killer who shot at him five times. It is believed he was slain on the orders of drug traffickers. The murder occurred three days after publication of one of his columns in which he wrote in support of drug traffickers being extradicted to the United States. March 28: The Attorney General warned that two articles of the television law were unconstitutional: the suspension of extension of contracts and the requirement that the National Commission on Television evaluate news program content every six months. April 4: A Bogota prosecutor dismissed a lawsuit against El Espectador columnist Santiago Pena Daza, who had been accused of libel and defamation by a former government official. The prosecutor's office determined that the right to freedom of opinion and the demonstration of the will to libel or defame are two different things, and that the latter was not proved in Pena's case. April 12: Two 40-pound dynamite devices exploded at Bucaramanga's Cable TV station. The attack, in which two technicians were injured, was launched by the ELN guerrilla group. May 3: A Cali judge sentenced Jesus Arney Guzman to 40 years in prison for the September, 1993, murder of Manuel Jose Martinez. Martinez hosted a radio program known for its civic denunciations and exposure of corruption. May 19: Reporter Elsa Alvarado, her husband, researcher Mario Calder6n, and his father, Carlos Alvarado, were gunned down in her Bogota apartment by five individuals dressed in black who showed fake identification cards from the prosecutor's office. Alvarado and Calder6n worked at the Center for Research and Popular Education (CINEP) run by the Jesuits' human rights division. The murder was blamed on extreme rightist paramilitary groups. On September 29, the five persons accused of actually doing the shooting were arrested. June 23: The FARC guerrilla group announced that it would consider journalists military targets since, from its point of view, they were apologists for the military. July 3: The radio station Voz del Yopal in the oil region of Casanare was forced by ELN guerrillas to broadcast communiques prepared by this guerrilla group. The radio station and journalists in general in the area are in a double bind, since paramilitary groups there have also threatened them if they broadcast the guerrilla communiques. July 8: The National Commission on Television prohibited the former mayor of Bogota from carrying out his work as a reporter for the news program "QAP" because he does not have a journalist's license. Its finding revived the controversy about the unconstitutionality of the so-called "Journalists Statute," which calls for a professional card issued by the Education Ministry in order to work as a journalist. The National Newspaper Association (Andiarios) announced it would file suit in the Constitutional Court to have the law declared unconstitutional. July 30: In a close 5-4 decision, the Constitutional Court partially upheld the Samper government's controversial television law. The Court did, however, throw out an article that empowered the National Commission on Television to vet news program content, but it approved another that canceled contracts for current programming. The four dissenting justices declared that the law set a bad precedent against press freedom because of its vindicative nature. News program "QAP" declared that it would not present a new request for licensing because it considered that under the present government, minimum guarantees for fairness do not exist. July 31: President Samper met with an IAPA delegation in Guatemala and infonned it about the results of a human rights program, established within the Office of the Presidency, to investigate cases of murdered journalists. August 19: Communications Minister Rodrigo Villamizar and Mines and Energy Minister Saulo Arboleda resigned from their posts following disclosure of influence peddling in the assignment of FM radio frequencies. The scandal arose when a telephone conversation between the two was made public. In it, they indicated they intended to award radio station licenses to journalist "friends" linked to the Cali drug cartel. September 30: A group known as the "Extraditables," in a communique distributed to the media, issued death threats to journalists and congressmen who favor extradiction. The communique named Enrique Santos Calder6n, managing editor of El Tiempo, whose September 21 column questioned the government's and Congress' stance on extradiction. "The Extraditables" are a group that appeared in the mid-1980s and have been blamed for carrying out the murder of politicians and journalists, kidnappings and terrorist attacks to avoid extradiction. October 7: Pursuing its announced plan to sabotage elections, FARC guerrillas warned media in Huila department in southern Colombia not to report about candidates for elective office. They threatened violence against any who did so. October 8: Cameraman Richard Velez of "Noticiero 12:30" fled Colombia with the help of the International Red Cross after receiving repeated death threats. The most recent was on October 5, when a revolver-wielding individual threatened him on the street. Velez had filmed scenes of abuses by the Army during a strike by coca-growing peasants in Caqueta earlier this year. On that occasion, he was roughed up by military personnel. Whether the complaints he filed against the uniformed soldiers have any connection with the death threats are being investigated. October 17: A radio station technician was killed and a newscaster was wounded when two bombs exploded in the offices of Radio Cadena Nacional and Radio Monumental in the city of Cucuta. The police attributed the attack to the ELN guerrilla group. The attack was part of a campaign of intimidation by the guerrilla forces to sabotage the Sunday, October 26, midterm elections for local authorities. All in all, a climate of violence against and intimidation of journalists by drug traffickers, guerrillas and the military continues. In most cases, those responsible for the crimes are going unpunished. In addition, the new television law and the initial actions of the National Commission on Television remain a source of concern because of their restrictive nature and the Commission's not being independent of the government.