HAVANA TIMES – Colombian authorities must thoroughly investigate the shooting of journalist Luis Carlos Ayala and hold the perpetrators to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At about 8:30 p.m. on April 20, an unidentified man aboard a motorcycle shot and slightly injured Ayala, who works as a freelance photojournalist and often contributes to the independent news website Colombia Informa, in the western city of Cali, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Ayala told CPJ that he was at a friend’s house when a man on a motorcycle called out his name and started shooting at him.
“I began to run and move about so he couldn’t hit me. One shot grazed my chin. Another shot grazed my right arm,” Ayala told CPJ. He said that his injuries were superficial and that he did not require medical treatment.
Ayala said he reported the crime to the national attorney general’s office and added that the government’s National Protection Unit was analyzing his case to decide whether to provide him with an armed escort or other safeguards.
“Colombian authorities should thoroughly investigate the shooting of journalist Luis Carlos Ayala and ensure that those responsible are held to account,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “It is vital for Colombian authorities to step up their efforts to protect all journalists in the country, especially in the Cauca region, where journalists have been facing heightened dangers, and guarantee that the press can operate safely.”
Ayala told CPJ that he has spent the past six months working on an independent reporting project covering Indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups defending their land from business interests and drug smuggling groups in Cauca department, located just south of Cali.
He told CPJ that such topics were “extremely sensitive,” but said he had not received any threats for his work.
The Cauca region has become especially dangerous for journalists due to disputes between groups competing for control over territory, according to the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP). In 2020, at least one journalist, José Abelardo Liz, was killed covering the disputes in the town of Corinto; CPJ is investigating the motive in another journalist killing, Andrés Felipe Guevara, in Cali.
CPJ texted the Colombian attorney general’s office for comment but did not receive any reply.