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Colombia December 19, 2012
H.E. Juan Manuel Santos
Palacio de Narino
Despacho del Senor Presidente
Cra 8 #7-26 Bogotá, D.C.
Republic of Colombia
Fax: (011.57.1) 286-7434
We at the Overseas Press Club of America urge you to swiftly investigate the untimely death of freelance journalist, Guillermo Quiroz Delgado. Quiroz died on November 27 after being hospitalized for injuries sustained while in police custody. According to a report by Notisabanas, the cable TV news program where Quiroz worked, the 31-year-old reporter said he had been beaten by police and then thrown off a moving police vehicle. Regional police said he had been injured while falling off a truck. A video taken by Notisabanas showed the reporter with battered and bloody head injuries the day after his arrest, according to Edgardo Ochoa, an editor for the cable show. He died 7 days after his arrest of a heart attack while in a coma.
It was well known that Quiroz’s investigative reports had upset local authorities. On the day of his arrest, he had been covering a demonstration against a local natural gas company that protesters said had been reluctant to hire local workers. Police said he had been taken into custody after being stopped for improper insurance on his motorcycle and resisting arrest.
Quiroz had reported about police brutality from his base in San Pedro, the northeastern town in the department of Antioquia. According to his employer, he named a local politician who had stolen cattle on his ranch, and in October, he had received a death threat on his cell phone, which he reported to the local office of the attorney general.
Your Excellency, as is often the case, local police present a sharply different version of events in these arrests than can be ascertained with an uncompromised Federal investigation. That is why an immediate follow-up by your office to bring out the facts is essential. Local police must know that an arrest leading to the injury or death of a journalist will bring a Federal inquiry and that those found culpable will be charged.
It is encouraging to note that three officers in the case were suspended by your National Police Inspector on November 30. The death of journalists in Colombia has decreased from rates a decade ago, but according to news organizations, death threats by para-military groups are on the rise. Ten journalists went into hiding in September after receiving a death threat for broadcasting a controversial interview, three last spring and one in February, for posting a video of police beating demonstrators.
We await your action in this case.
Freedom of the Press Committee
A Maria Carolina Barco Isakson
Ambassador of Colombia to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Colombia
2118 Leroy Place, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 232.8643
Ambassador Luis Guillermo Giraldo
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Colombia to the United Nations
140 East 57 Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Fax: (212) 371.2813
H.E. William Wood
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia
Embassy of the United States of America
Carrera 45, Nos. 22D-45
Fax: (011.57.1) 315.2197
Luis Carlos Gomez, Editor
Martinez Ana Mercedes Gomez, Director
Fernando Quijano Velasco, Editor
Fundacion de Derechos Humanos “Joel Sierri”
Carrera 16, Nos. 28-49
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520