Young reporter gunned down in northern Colombia
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Colombian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the murder of the founder and administrator of a local news page on Facebook in the northern department of Córdoba and to seriously examine the possibility that it was linked to the victim’s journalism.
Luis Gabriel Pereira, 25, was murdered on 9 May by two hitmen on a motorcycle who pursued him through the streets of the small town of Ciénaga de Oro before gunning him down and making their getaway.
It was just a few months ago that Pereira created a local news page on Facebook called Notiorense in which he posted short general news items and crime stories every day that focused on this rural and coastal region dominated by armed groups with links to drug trafficking.
A few days before his death, he posted several items about the gender-related murder of a woman and about the murder of an Indigenous leader that was supposedly carried out at the behest of the Clan del Golfo, one of Colombia’s most powerful crime cartels.
Pereira was the third journalist to be murdered in the past seven months in Colombia, and the second in the Córdoba region, which is known for being the cradle of far-right paramilitary groups. It was in this region that Rafael Emiro Moreno, the editor of the online newspaper Voces de Córdoba, was the victim of a similar hit-style murder on 16 November 2022 after receiving death threats for exposing alleged cases of corruption involving local politicians and businessmen.
“We are appalled by Luis Gabriel Pereira’s murder, which casts an unforgiving light on the growing dangers that stalk journalistic work in Colombia. The authorities must do everything possible to identify the perpetrators of this killing, and the Colombian state must assume its responsibilities and do what is necessary to prevent any further violence against journalists.”
Local journalists and human rights defenders told RSF’s correspondent in Colombia that the murder rate has surged in recent months in Ciénaga de Oro and that between eight and twelve people have been the victim of hit-style killings there since December. The real figure is probably higher, RSF was told by a researcher specialising in violence in the region, who referred to a code of silence fed by a fear of reprisals among the families of victims.
Eleven journalists in the Córdoba region are currently receiving protection from Colombia’s national judicial protection mechanism, while 15 others have received threats. Colombia fell six places in RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 145th out of 180 countries.