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Colombian Journalist Killed

The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

Colombia remains a dangerous country for journalists.

Julios Palacios, host of a radio news program in the city of Cucuta, was murdered on his way to work. Fellow journalists say he was killed for denouncing corruption and the influence of drug traffickers on local politics in Colombia. He was also a supporter of President Alvaro Uribe, whose government is fighting insurgent groups financed by drug trafficking and other criminal activities.

The fifty-year-old Palacios survived two murder attempts in 1996 and 1998. In October 2004, he received anonymous telephone threats of death if he did not stop his reporting. Three other journalists in Cucuta received similar threats.

Koichiro Matsuura is the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO. He said, “The fact that journalists are killed because of what they write or say constitutes an intolerable attack on democracy.” In denouncing “this cowardly attack on freedom of expression,” Mr. Matsuura said he hoped Colombian authorities would succeed in their efforts to bring the murderers to justice. “I wish to pay tribute," he said, "to the journalists who brave threats and intimidation to nurture open public debate, however controversial at the risk of their lives.”

Fewer journalists were killed in Colombia in 2004 than in some previous years. But press freedom organizations warn that with at least one-hundred fifty-six reporters murdered since 1977, Colombian journalists continue to resort to self-censorship to avoid reprisals.

Journalists everywhere should have the right to freely report and discuss news events. As First Lady Laura Bush said, “Human beings achieve our full potential only when we are free, free to speak our minds and debate ideas.” Julios Palacios should not have had to give his life for the privilege.