- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 20, 2010

BOGOTA (AP) — The killing of a veteran radio reporter by a motorcycle gunman in a northwestern state capital reignited concerns Saturday about the safety of journalists in Colombia.

Clodomiro Castilla, a reporter and announcer at La Voz de Monteria radio, was gunned down on his front porch Friday night, said Jaime Cuervo, a judicial investigator in Cordoba state.

Castilla, a 50-year-old father of four, had reported on far-right drug-funded militias known as paramilitaries and their friendly ties to the area’s business elite. Cordoba has long been a paramilitary stronghold.

Police had no immediate suspects in the killing and offered a $26,000 reward for leads. Castilla’s employer said he had received threats and was assigned bodyguards for two years until last year.

Journalists once were frequent targets in Colombia, where the cocaine trade exacerbates a half-century civil conflict in which the paramilitaries arose to counter kidnapping and extortion by leftist rebels.

Killings have recently declined, though many journalists say that has coincided with significant self-censorship.

Castilla was the second journalist killed since the start of 2009 — with none killed the previous year, according to the Colombian Foundation for the Freedom of Press.

President Alvaro Uribe, who owns a ranch just outside Monteria, expressed concern in a nationally televised speech.

“We have made every effort to stop the threat of assassinations against journalists,” he said. “Just when we thought we had overcome the tragic situation, more killings of journalists appear.”

Castilla was known for his reports on the activities of Salvatore Mancuso, a local paramilitary boss extradited in 2008 to the United States on drug-trafficking charges, and on Mancuso’s ties to powerful business interests in the region, said Rafael Gomez, owner and director of La Voz de Monteria.

Gomez’s radio station is a rarity in Monteria: a media outlet unafraid to report in depth on such links.

“We are in the worst location in Colombia,” Gomez said. “Nobody dares to say anything. We are the only ones.”

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