COLOMBIA A legislative offensive by pro-government sectors in Congress against media outlets that have been critical of the government of President Ernesto Samper is the most worrisome development for press freedom. Attacks and intimidation against the media from guerrilla groups increased, but there were fewer attackson journalists by drug traffickers. It is important to point out that for only the second time in 15 years, no journalist was killed because of his work in the last six months. Moreover, freedom of the press has been strengthened by significant court rulings. Following are the most important incidents: March 19: Two men riding a motorcycle attempted to murder Raul Benoit, a correspondent for Univisión in Bogota. Benoit's bodyguards prevented the murder attempt. Benoit had received several death threats after he broadcast stories on financial contributions from the Cali Cartel and the 1994 presidential campaign. April 8: The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group kidnapped Andres Alvarez, publisher of the regional newspaper El Contrapunteo, in the Casanare region. He was freed seven days later with a warning to the region's journalists that demanded equal treatment in all news accounts for the guerrilla group's demands. The journalists' association in the Casanare region issued a communique condemning the ELN's intimidation tactics. May 10: Television correspondent Ana Lucia Betancur of Notidero Nadonal was kidnapped by the Jaime Bateman Cay6n guerrilla group, which operates in the southeast department of Cauca. The kidnappers said in a Videotape that the journalist was kidnapped to deliver a message to the government. Betancur was freed May 15 with a message from the group. May 29: The Senate's Fourth Commission summoned all media editors and publishers to a special meeting that would review a bill seeking to create a "National Tribunal of Self Regulation for Social Communication Media." The journalists boycotted the meeting and denounced the proposal as an attempt against press freedom. Media associations also declared that self-regulation cannot be ruled by law, since it overlooks the voluntary character of self-control. August 20: El Tiempo correspondent Edison Parra and photographer Jaime Arias were harassed by a group of men in the city of Mocoa, in the Putumayo region, who forced them to leave an area where coca growers were demonstrating against government policies. August 22: Television journalist Amparo Jimenez and cameraman Jose Coronado, both from the news program "QAP," were detained by police and received death threats from a paramilitary group. Jimenez and Coronado are correspondents in the state of Cesar, where they had reported on a sit-in of a local farm by peasants who were protesting the murder of their leaders. When they were under detention, the two journalists refused requests by police to turn over their video of the protest. But after they were released they were confronted by members of a paramilitary group who stole their equipment and threatened them with death. The journalists were not hurt. August 23: The House of Representatives presented three simultaneous bills that proposed "to democratize television news." The bill would, among other things, suspend state licenses which according to present law would not expire until 2004, so that the present government could reassign such licenses to other applicants. The Colombian media have characterized the bills as "political reprisals" inspired by the executive branch, because it has targeted independent and critical news programs. Furthermore, the congressmen who introduced the bills are important supporters of the government of President Samper. Journalist organizations and the IAPA have criticized the bills as attempts against the pluralism and independence of the broadcast media, but Congress has not withdrawn them. The Sam per government has denied any connection to the introduction of the bills in the legislature. August 28: The National Commission of Television (CNT) ordered television news programs not to broadcast "unofficial information that incites violations of public order." The CNT issued that order on August 23, following the broadcast of clashes between coca growers and the military in the towns of Caqueta and Putumayo. Four days later, the CNT cancelled its order after strong protests from all the media organizations and the IAPA. August 29: Cameraman Luis Gonzalo VeJez of the news program "Colombia 12:30" was attacked by soldiers while filming a clash between the army and coca growers in the Caqueta department. The soldiers hit the journalist repeatedly and confiscated his Videotapes. In the following days, at least 10 journalists from different media were trapped in shootouts between the military and guerrilla fighters who had infiltrated the coca growers' demonstrations. August 30: Jairo Tobon Villegas, editor of the monthly newspaper El Rionegrero, published in Antioquia, was sentenced to five days in prison after he refused to correct a news account in the terms ordered by a local judge. Tobon also was sued for libel by the mayor of Rionegro, who charged that his honor had been undermined by criticisms made by the newspaper of his leadership. September 7: The National Tribunal of Public Order quashed, for lack of evidence, a 40-year prison sentence handed down by a Barranquilla judge against three men for the murder of journalist Carlos Lajud Catalan. Lajud was an irreverent radio reporter who criticized Barranquilla political leaders. He was murdered on April 19, 1993. September 9: The Constitutional Court endorsed El Tiempo's editorial policy of publishing corrections and retractions in a set space allocated on the second page of the newspaper. The court also dismissed a complaint against the newspaper filed by a retired police officer who demanded that a retraction of a news item about him be published more prominently in the newspaper. The court ruled that the newspaper had given the correction" equal display." Drug-related violence against the press diminished noticeably in the last six months, but the press was still under attack from paramilitary and guerrilla groups. In the judicial area, the courts issued a number of decisions that tended to strengthen freedom of the press. The most worrying development in press freedom is the ongOing revenge-seeking attitude prevalent in Congress and in the Samper Administration, in relatiation for television news programs that have been critical of the government.