COLOMBIA Widespread violence, in which six journalists have been killed in the last six months, and a new series of laws have posed a serious threat to press freedom in Colombia. March 27, the Cartago Mayor's press officer, José Miguel Amaya Espinosa, was shot to death by unidentified assailants when they tried to storm a public building. Ismael Cortés, editor of La Opinión del Magdalena Medio, was killed by hired gunmen on May 6 in Barrancabermeja, while an Organization of American States (OAS) human rights commission was visiting the city. On June 2, three employees of "Noticiero Noti-5, journalist Bernahé Cortés, cameraman Fernando Montano and assistant Alexis Balanta, were kidnapped in Cali by National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas, who had killed a policeman. They were freed three days later on condition that their television station broadcast a communique from their captors. Three days later, terrorists exploded bombs at the Todelar and Caracol radio networks, causing considerable damage to their communication equipment. Caracol said its national radio-telephone network was destroyed. On June 9, the ELN issued a statement in Tlaxcala, Mexico, threatening the radio network Caracol and the Bogotá newspaper El Tiempo, which it accused of "manipulating information" and discovering up the truth." On July 6, journalist Gloria Noriega Torres was murdered by unidentified killers in La Paz in the state (department) of César. On July 26, Wilsón Montoya, a reporterfor Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN) was found dead near the University of Antioqula in Medellín. On August 5, hired gunmen on a motorcyde shot journalist John Félix Tirado to death. Other journalists with Bucaramanga's Vanguardia Liberal, for which Tirado was court reporter, received death threats from the guerrillas after the newspaper began a campaign against kidnapping in the region and published a series of paid advertisements by the Military Brigade. The threats were followed by letters to the paper accusing it of "selling out to the military." On August 26, the popular sports announcer of the Caracol radio network in Medellin, Luis Fernando Myunera Eastman, was shot at in an attack attributed to drug traffickers. Hé was struck by 10 bullets. In other matters relating to press freedom, La Prensa in several editorials in August accused the government of discrimination in the placement of official advertising, calling it a form of censorship in retaliation for the newspaper's strong criticism cf the Gaviria administration. News comentators so far have nat supported the complaint. An enabling clause (decree 2591) of the new 1991 constitution provides for a speciallegal process to protect fundamental rights and contains other provisions concerning legal action against the press. The ambiguous wording of the decree has been used in the COUrts as grounds fer irnpesing restrictions on press freedom - contrary to a prohibition of censorship spelled out in article 20 of the same constitution. Some recent cases inelude the following: • A judge in Cali ordered the newspapers El Tiempo and El Espectador and two television news programs to issue a retraction of a report about the alleged criminal activity of a person reportedly connected to drug traficking. The story had been based on information given by senior police intelligenee officials. The judge did not allow the papers to present a defense and summarily ordered them to print the retraction or face imprisonment. • A judge in Barranquilla ordered three newspapers - El Heraldo, El Espacio and La Libertad - to refrain from publishing material on the life and death of a well-known singer, who was the victim of an unsolved murder. In these and other cases, a contraversy has emerged in Colombia over the extent oE the right to inform, to be informed and the right to privacy. • In another controversial case, a judge in Barranquilla prahibited several newspapers, radio stations and television programs from mentioning the name of a well-known politician again, invoking a speciallegal procedure to protect basic rights. The papers had reported that the politician had been accused by another of dishonesty. In this case also, the papers were not allowed to present their defense. The Constitutional Court upheld a ruling by a Cali court that a newspaper must publish a news item about the dismissal of a libel suit in order to protect the honor of the accused. The newspaper had reported the accusations and the security measures ordered by the judge, but not the outcome. The higher court not only ordered the report to be published, but specified the wording to be used. In addition to the so-called speciallegal pracedure to pratect basic rights, which has been on the books for eight months, there is a second legal threat to press freedom in the form of article 332 of the new penal code which came into effect in July. This dedares that "the publieation in the media of confidential information constitutes a presumed violation of the right to confidentiality, and both the employees of the newspaper and the paper itself will be subject to legal process. The fine for violators may be as high as [the equivalent of] 1,000 times the minimum monthly wage.' This measure is seen as posing a dear threat to journalists and the media, because it creates a dimate of fear and intimidation in their news gathering. Meanwhile, there are fears a new press law might be enacted. The new eonstitution, in artides 20, 73 and 74, sets out the basic principies governing journalistic activity, induding freedom of information, social responsibility of the media, free access to public documents, inviolability of professional secrecy and the freedom and independence of the press. A number of legislators are seen as anxious to pass enabling legislation on these tenets, more from an aversion to the press than from legal necessity, with a the result press freedom would be restricted. In mid-September, Judge Miriam Rodo Vélez murdered in Medellin. She had headed the investigation into the killing of Guillermo Cano, editor of El Espectador. The killing, followed by anonymous ealls to the newsroom of a Medellín newspaper in whieh people connected to drug trafficking said that closing the case would mean "an end to the violence," indicates a new offensive by the drug traffickers to censure the media that report on this and other cases in which the traffickers are implicated. It should be noted that in connection with the case of Guillermo Cano two judges and Héetor Giraldo, a defense lawyer and journalist, have been killed and another judge who signed the arrest warrant for drug overlord Pablo Escobar had to go into exile abroad.