John Alexander Jaramillo, a 24-year-old man who pleaded guilty to killing community radio station journalist Argemiro Cárdenas Agudelo on 15 March in Dosquebradas, in Risaralda department, was sentenced on 31 March to a combined sentence of 21 years, 2 months and 15 days in prison on charges of homicide and illegally carrying a firearm.
Jaramillo, who confessed to the murder three days after it took place, said he was paid 1 million pesos (560 dollars) to carry it out. Asking the court to be forgiven, he nonetheless claimed to be unaware of the victim’s identity, although Cárdenas was well known in Dosquebradas as the head of Metro Rádio Estéreo and as the town’s former mayor.
While noting the speed with which the police and judicial authorities acted in this case, Reporters Without Borders cannot be satisfied with a verdict that reveals nothing about the motive for the journalist’s murder.
It is unfortunately not unusual in such cases that the authorities arrest and convict a perpetrator, who is young and knows nothing about their background. This cannot be regarded as victory over impunity. Was Cárdenas killed because of his radio journalism? The question has been left unanswered.
Meanwhile, another journalist has been murdered. Jesús Martínez Orozco was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle in Sabanalarga, in Atlántico department, on 29 March. Aged 42, he hosted exclusively cultural programmes for La Nueva, a privately-owned local station, and had never received any threat. Some sources are speculating that it was a case of mistaken identity.
16.03.12 - Head of community radio shot dead in region gripped by drug gangs
Community broadcaster Argemiro Cárdenas Agudelo was shot dead in cold blood by a hired killer on a motorcycle yesterday in Dosquebradas, in Risaralda department. A politician and former mayor of the town, he was also director and manager of the community radio station Metro Radio Estéreo and for the past 14 years had also contributed to other stations. Since 2010, he had been running Red Radial Cafetera radio and was affiliated to the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC).
“We join AMARC and professional bodies in Colombia in paying tribute to Argemiro Cárdenas Agudelo and calling for a thorough investigation into his murder,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“One again we call on those conducting the investigation not to be too quick to rule out the possibility that he was killed because of his work, as is often the case in this type of crime. Managing a community radio station is, by definition, a huge risk in a region like Risaralda, where drug traffickers and the feared ‘Cordillera’ armed gang hold sway.
“The shadow of these predators of free expression hangs over the most recent cases of journalists murdered or forced into exile.”
Local journalists say Cardenas, who was about to retire, had not recently been the target of threats. He campaigned on behalf of local communities, sometimes on the air, against the political establishment, but he did not tackle subjects regarded as risky.
As far as a motive is concerned, the police favour the theory that it was a long-standing financial dispute or an attempt to extort cash allegedly earned from the sale of a radio station. While acknowledging these are possibilities, Reporters Without Borders should like to know on what the evidence they are based.
Colombia remains one of the western hemisphere’s most dangerous countries for journalists, ranked 143rd of 179 countries in the latest world press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, and for several years has had the largest number living in exile, both abroad and internally.