Colombia: reporter killed while covering police operation

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities to identify those responsible for fatally shooting a reporter as she covered a riot police operation against indigenous protesters in southwestern Colombia on 8 October, and condemns a disturbing increase in police violence against journalists.

Efigenia Vásquez Astudillo, 31, a reporter and presenter with community radio Renacer, sustained the fatal gunshot injuries while covering an operation by ESMAD riot police to evict members of an indigenous community occupying disputed land in Puracé, in the southwestern department of Cauca.

She died of her injuries a few hours later the same day after being taken to San José hospital in the nearby city of Popayán. Two protesters were also injured in the clashes with the riot police.

We urge the Ministry of Defence, National Police and Public Prosecutions to identify those responsible for Efigenia Vásquez’s death, to bring them to justice and to shed all possible light on what happened,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau.

Media coverage of Colombia’s social conflicts is becoming more and more dangerous and the security forces are often responsible for attacks and violence against journalists. The representatives of the Colombian state must respect and protect and the work of journalists throughout the country, as President Santos promised when interviewed by RSF last August.

In a separate incident on 8 October, police fired rubber bullets and teargas at an international delegation of UN and OAS representatives, members of human rights NGOs, politicians and journalists in a rural area of Tumaco, in the neighbouring department of Nariño.

The delegation had gone there to investigate the deaths of six farm workers in clashes with police on 5 October.

Such abusive behaviour by the police is particularly worrying because, despite the recent peace accords, violence continues in many of Colombia’s rural and post-conflict regions, and journalists are finding it hard to access them.

When RSF interviewed President Santos in Bogotá on 31 August, he gave a firm undertaking to improve respect for media freedom in Colombia and to provide journalists with better protection.

Efigenia Vásquez was the first journalist to be killed this year in Colombia, which is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 11.10.2017