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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Colombian journalists launch investigation to fight for justice for murdered colleague



Flor Alba Núñez Vargas was only 25-years-old when she was fatally shot on the way to work on Sept. 10, 2015. Despite her youth, she simultaneously worked as a journalist at radio stations, television outlets and newspapers in Pitalito in the Huila department of southwest Colombia.

Two months after her death and with little progress prosecuting those involved in her murder, colleagues are launching a project, ¡Pitalito sin censura! (Pitalito uncensored!), to fight against impunity in her case and against censorship of the press in Huila.

As part of the project, eight journalists will work to retrace and investigate the cases that Núñez Vargas was working on and the work that she had produced, according to a report from news agency Colprensa.

Photo of Flor Alba Núñez Vargas from her Twitter account

The project is a collaboration between the Colombian Association of Newspaper Editors and Media (Andiarios for its acronym in Spanish), Colprensa and the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP for its acronym in Spanish).

She was, without a doubt, an important [information source] among journalists in Huila and her murder sought to silence a critical voice that denounced crime, corruption, and who made visible different issues affecting her community,” Andiarios said in a press release. “Moreover, the intellectual authors also sought to intimidate journalist in the region through a message of zero intolerance towards the work of the press.”

The organization said these attempts have been partially successful: “the major journalistic spaces that Flor led have disappeared, and her closest colleagues have denounced threats and have expressed their intention to leave their work as reporters.”

Juan Camilo Ortiz, suspected of killing Núñez Vargas, was arrested on Sept. 26. Another man, suspected of driving the motorcycle on which the murderer escaped, is on the run.

According to Colprensa, officials have pointed to various motives for the journalist’s murder, including critical reporting Núñez Vargas had produced about a judge’s decision to grant Camilo Ortiz house arrest in connection with a previous attack against another woman. Officials also pointed to possible political motives since the murder took place during an election season, according to the news agency.

The news agency said that after talking to the journalist’s sources, friends, colleagues and others, no one doubts that she was killed because of her work as a journalist.

Last month, the high-profile case of another journalist murdered in Pitalito 17 years ago moved another step closer to hopefully finding justice. The case of Nelson Carvajal was submitted to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on Oct. 22.

Carvajal, director of the news program Momento Regional and of the radio magazines Mirador de la Semana and Amenecer en el Campo of Emisora Radio Sur, was murdered on April 16, 1998 at the age of 37.

Investigation of Carvajal’s murder has experienced various setbacks in the past two decades, including acquittals and threats to prosecutors and family members. The Inter-American Press Association and Robert F, Kennedy Human Rights are working to attain justice from the Inter-American Court.



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