Bogotá, October 19, 2022—Colombian authorities must fully investigate the murder of journalist Rafael Emiro Moreno, determine whether he was targeted for his work, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee said on Wednesday. for the protection of journalists.
At around 7:10 p.m. on Sunday, October 16, in the northern town of Montelíbano, two men on a motorcycle shot and killed Moreno while he was at the fast food restaurant he owned, according to reports and the Foundation for the Bogotá-based press. Freedom (FLIP).
Moreno was the director of independent online media outlet Voces De Córdoba, which published local stories on Facebook, and a well-known community leader who received years of threats for his reporting on political corruption and drug trafficking groups, FLIP executive director Jonathan Bock told CPJ via WhatsApp. Colombian news magazine Cambio said Moreno recently investigated illegal gold mining by a powerful drug trafficking group known as the Gulf Clan.
The Colombian government’s National Protection Unit (UNP) had assigned a bodyguard to protect Moreno and given him a protective vest and an early warning button, Jhon Murillo, a spokesperson for the agency, told CPJ. ‘UNP, via WhatsApp. However, around noon the day he was killed, Moreno, who did not think protection was necessary while working in his restaurant, told his bodyguard he could take the rest of the day, what he did, Murillo said.
“The brutal assassination of Rafael Emiro Moreno clearly demonstrates the deadly risks for Colombia’s most threatened journalists,” said Natalie Southwick, CPJ’s Latin America and Caribbean program coordinator, in New York. “Colombia authorities must investigate Moreno’s murder to determine if it was work-related, bring those responsible to justice, and urgently overhaul the country’s protection program to ensure it keeps people safe. of which he is responsible.”
Murillo said the UNP had provided protection for Moreno for six years and that the journalist had recently requested a second escort and a vehicle because he was often left unprotected when his bodyguard ended his shifts. But Murillo said the UNP’s assessment of Moreno’s security situation was not yet complete at the time of his death.
Colonel Jhon Fredy Suárez, the police chief for the northern department of Córdoba, which includes Montelíbano, told Bogotá radio station W that since 2019, Moreno had reported at least 20 death threats against him and that his department was investigating Moreno’s murder. Attorney General’s Office of Colombia said he had appointed a special investigation unit which was taking “urgent action” to solve the crime and identify those responsible.
FLIP’s Bock said it was the first time a Colombian journalist under government protection had been killed.
On Friday, October 21, Moreno was due to take part in a roundtable in Bogotá, the capital, on the dangers facing regional journalists in Colombia, Jaime Abello, director of the Gabo Foundation, the nonprofit journalism foundation that organized the event, said.