Abelardo Liz, an indigenous reporter working for Emisora Nación Nasa, a community radio station that is part of the Voz del Viento media collective, died as he was being rushed to hospital after sustaining several gunshot injuries while covering a protest against land privatization in the town of Corinto.
The protest degenerated after Corinto’s mayor sounded the alarm and soldiers, regular police and a special riot police tried to disperse the demonstrators, who had occupied two privately-owned farms in the town. It is not yet clear who fired the shots that fatally injured Liz, as well as killing an indigenous activist and injuring several demonstrators.
“The national authorities must shed all possible light on Abelardo Liz’s death, quickly identify those responsible for this attack, and investigate the circumstances in which the army intervened,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “The conditions for media work are deplorable in Cauca. The Colombian government has a duty to restore the rule of law and guarantee the safety of all journalists in this department.”
Efigenia Vásquez, another community radio reporter, was killed in similar circumstances in 2017 in Cauca, where nearly a quarter of the population is indigenous. Cauca has for years seen repeated land disputes and clashes between armed groups (the former FARC and ELN guerrillas and the Clan del Golfo neo-paramilitary group), drug traffickers (Los Rastrojos) and the army. The media are extremely vulnerable and are constantly the targets of threats and attacks, as RSF has often reported.
RSF is also very concerned about the safety of journalists in Meta, a department in Colombia’s eastern plains, especially Fernando Osorio and Edilson Álvarez, who have been the targets of several attacks this year.
In the past two weeks, they have reported being subjected to intimidation and arbitrary detention by soldiers in connection with their attempts to cover army activity in the region for Voces del Guayabero, a local media outlet.
Colombia is ranked 130th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.