May 10, 2013 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Death threats against eight journalists over land restitution

Eight journalists have been threatened with death in a leaflet signed by a self-styled “Anti-Land Restitution Group” circulated in Valledupar, in the northern department of Cesar, on 6 May (see below). Headed by a photo of an automatic weapon, the leaflet gave the eight journalists 24 hours to leave the city and said they would be killed if they did not stop covering subjects related to land restitution. It described the eight journalists as “military targets” and issued a warning to “all journalists.” The eight named journalists are Herlency Gutiérrez of RCN Radio, Jaime José Daza of Maravilla Stereo, Damaris Rojas of Al Día, Renier Asprilla of El Heraldo, Katia Ospino of UNO and CM&, Óscar Arzuaga of La Tribuna del Cesar de Radio Guatapuri, Ubaldo Anaya Flórez of TV RPT and Martín Mendoza of Caracol Televisión and El Pilón. All have been covering the process under which peasant farmers are supposed to recover land that was seized by paramilitary groups during the civil war, displacing a significant proportion of the rural population. “We condemn these threats by a group that is very probably linked to the paramilitaries, and we are very worried for the targeted journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They must be given protection, even though two of them already receive protection, and an investigation must be launched without delay in order to shed light on the exact origin of these threats.” Reporters Without Borders added: “The authorities must also do whatever is necessary to stop paramilitary groups from deliberately intimidating not only journalists but also human rights activists, peasant leaders, labour representatives and environmentalists.” The leaflet is not isolated. Last month, the same group threatened leaders of the peasant movement that supports land restitution in Cesar department. Several have been murdered while others have stopped pressing for the return of their land because of the threats being made in several departments. The threats come two years after the government’s June 2011 ratification of Law 1448, which orders the return of 2 million hectares of land to 400,000 families displaced by the violence since 1991. Some armed groups opposed to the law have been trying to block the process ever since, supported by various political and economic sectors of society. Read the Anti-Land Restitution Group’s leaflet: