Radio Journalist Libardo Montenegro Killed in Nariño, Colombia

General view of the illuminated sanctuary basilica Roman Catholic church “Las Lajas” located in the southern Colombian Department of Nariño, in the municipality of Ipiales, and built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River, on January 7, 2019. (Photo by Juan BARRETO / AFP)

HAVANA TIMES – Colombian authorities should conduct a swift and comprehensive investigation into the killing of radio journalist Libardo Montenegro and ensure those responsible are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Two gunmen shot Montenegro on the evening of June 11, in Samaniego, a town in Nariño department which borders Ecuador, according to the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), which cited local police, and news reports.

Montenegro, 40, hosted several programs that covered local news and cultural affairs for the independent community radio station Samaniego Estéreo.

“The violent death of Libardo Montenegro shows the dangerous conditions for journalists working in the more volatile regions of Colombia,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna. “Colombian authorities should fully investigate Montenegro’s killing, including whether journalism may have been the motive, and bring all those responsible to justice.”

Montenegro’s colleagues and local authorities told FLIP they were not aware of him receiving any threats. FLIP director Pedro Vaca told CPJ that authorities had yet to establish a motive.

On the day he was killed, Montenegro interviewed a local journalist about an event in Samaniego to promote peace and human rights amid a rise in violence in the region, according to FLIP, who spoke with his colleague.

Libardo Montenegro. Photo

Nariño is one of Colombia’s most violent departments and is home to drug trafficking gangs and dissident members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia [FARC], the Marxist guerrilla group that disarmed under a 2016 peace treaty, according to Insight Crime, a research group that investigates organized crime in Latin America.

Last year, CPJ documented how two Ecuadoran journalists and their driver were kidnapped and killed by dissident FARC members in Nariño department.

The Foundation for Development and Peace, based in the Nariño capital of Pasto, described Montenegro as a human rights defender and said on Twitter that he is the fifteenth human rights worker to be killed in Nariño this year.

Nariño governor Camilo Romero declared on Twitter: “Local journalism is in mourning” and Fernando Carillo, the Colombian government’s inspector general, called the killing “an attack on press freedom.”