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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Murder of Colombian journalist Flor Alba Núñez still unresolved one year later



September 10 marks one year since the murder of Colombian journalist Flor Alba Núñez in the city of Pitalito, in the department of Huila. In that time, her family, colleagues and organizations defending freedom of the press have fought to investigate the crime and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

So far, only one person, Juan Camilo Ortiz, has been arrested after being accused by the prosecution of being the perpetrator of the crime. However, although he remains in custody, the process against him has not advanced.

Flor Alba Núñez Vargas. Foto: tomada de su cuenta de Twitter.

On Sept. 2, the prosecution finally was able to present all evidence – including “93 elements of proof and legal evidence collected to support his accusation” – during the preliminary hearing, according to newspaper La Nación. During the preliminary hearing, the prosecution not only shows his evidence, the judge also determines which evidence and testimony will be admitted to the trial and which are unfounded.

The hearing was suspended and will resume on Sept. 19, according to La Nación. This was the fourth attempt for a preliminary hearing; it was suspended on three previous occasions. At the time, the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP for its acronym in Spanish) warned of the possibility that the suspect would be freed because of the expiration of terms.

The prosecution’s hypothesis is that the murder occurred due to some publications that Núñez made on her Facebook account related to the capture of a person suspected of attacking a veterinarian, and for which she had received death threats, La Nación reported.

Núñez’s death had a large impact in Colombia. In Pitalito in particular, her murder led to repudiation because the journalist had become a reference for local journalism and was one of the few critical voices in the region.

In fact, two months after the murder and after seeing no progress in the investigation, her colleagues created a project called ¡Pitalito sin censura! (Pitalito uncensored!) with which they sought to continue the investigations of the cases on which Núñez was working.

Eight reporters worked on the project, which was a collaboration between the Colombian Association of Newspaper and Media Editors (Andiarios), news agency Colprensa and FLIP.

According to FLIP’s 2015 annual report, the investigations that took place as part of this project “unraveled a pact of impunity and complicity in this municipality, which was prevented the progress of investigations and arrests.”

For this first anniversary of the murder, the Corporation of Journalists of Huila (Corpehuila) has scheduled events throughout the day in order to remember the journalist, according to news site Opa Noticias. The day will start with a march through the streets of Pitalito and also will feature a discussion for journalists and other media workers led by the Colombian Federation of Journalists (Fecolper).

Also, local and regional authorities will establish the Departmental Day of Journalists of Huila, which will be celebrated every year on Sept. 10, in Núñez’s memory, the site added. Finally, there will be a mass in the afternoon.

According to an article published in August by FLIP, “impunity in cases of murders against journalists is 98 percent.” The organization added that the few prosecutions that exist “are limited to perpetrators.”

According to FLIP, while it is good that the perpetrators are captured, they “are just the first links for justice to determine the entire criminal chain, including those who gave the order to kill.”



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