Journalist receiving state protection gunned down in Colombia
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an impartial investigation into the murder of Rafael Emiro Moreno, a Colombian journalist who recently asked the authorities to step up the protection they were giving him – a request they were still considering when he was gunned down on 16 October, becoming the third Colombian journalist to be murdered this year.
“The mechanism for protecting Colombian journalists had been told about the new threats against Rafael Emiro Moreno but failed to move quickly to reinforce his protection,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the director of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “The mechanism must reexamine its emergency response times and must account for this apparent failure, one with tragic consequences. At the same time, local and national authorities must quickly identify those responsible for this journalist’s cold-blooded murder and bring them to justice.”
Rafael Emiro Moreno was murdered on the night of 16 October in Montelíbano, a municipality in the northern department of Córdoba, by two gunmen who approached him on a motorcycle, opened fire and then drove off.
He was the editor of the online newspaper Voces de Córdoba, in which he often denounced local corruption and the activities of illegal armed groups. He was also very active in civil society groups in the nearby town of Puerto Libertador, hosting citizen assemblies designed to promote and monitor public policies at the local level.
In 2019, after receiving death threats linked to his journalism, Moreno turned to the National Protection Unit (UNP), which provides endangered journalists with protection. The UNP responded favourably, giving him a panic button and bulletproof vest and allocating him a bodyguard – measures that were still in effect when he was murdered.
After new threats increased his concern about a possible attack, on July 12, 2022, he asked the FLIP, a press freedom organisation that is RSF’s partner in Colombia, to ask the UNP to reinforce his protection in July. The UNP had been expected to agree to his request after a 90 days analysis of his case but had yet to reach a decision when he was killed.
Several sources told RSF that the bodyguard who had been escorting Moreno since 2019 was not with him when he murdered.
In February 2022, RSF published an unprecedented report on the mechanisms for protecting journalists in Colombia and three other Latin American countries – Honduras, Brazil and Mexico. The reported pinpointed the UNP’s flaws and offered a series of detailed recommendations for making it more effective.
The two journalists previously murdered in Colombia in 2022 were Leiner Montero and Dilia Contreras, who were killed by motorcycle gunmen while travelling in a car together in the northern department of Magdalena on 28 August.