BOGOTA, Colombia , (AP) — The prize-winning investigations editor of Colombia’s top news magazine said Thursday that he believes a roadside attack on him by gunmen who put five bullets in his car was related to his work.
“Suddenly a silver sedan with tinted windows pulls up,” said Calderon, who was alone at the time. “The passenger side window is open and they call me by name. And I turn around and a guy is pointing a gun at me and starts to fire.”
Calderon said he was lucky that his car, the motor still running, was between him and the shooters. He said he escaped by running and diving into a dark roadside ditch.
After the gunmen left, Calderon said he returned to his car and sped away, finding a police patrol car.
“I almost couldn’t get out of the car because my legs, everything, was shaking,” he said.
Calderon has written sensitive stories including reports about illegal spying by the DAS domestic intelligence agency on judges, journalists and opposition politicians during the presidency of Alvaro Uribe that led to its dismantling and the jailing of more than 20 agents. Calderon also broke stories on links between far-right militias and politicians.
He has lately been investigating cushy conditions for military officers convicted of human rights violations held at a military base near Girardot.
Calderon told The Associated Press that he thought the attack was related his work but could not say who might have been behind it.
He said he was returning home Wednesday night, in his wife’s car, from a scheduled interview that never took place in the regional capital of Ibague, across the Magdalena river valley.
Calderon’s car is armored but his wife’s is not.
Semana’s editor, Alejandro Santos, said the attack was the first ever against a journalist from the magazine in its 30 years of publishing.
While provincial journalists are periodically assassinated in Colombia for their work attacks on prominent journalists such as Calderon are extremely rare in Colombia, which is beset by a half-century-old civil conflict, drug-trafficking gangs and major human rights violations by actors including the military.
Colombia’s Foundation for a Free Press, FLIP, says at least one journalist was killed in the country last year in the line of duty. It says that 87 percent of the 140 killings of journalists in Colombia since 1977 have gone unpunished.
The advocacy groups Committee to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Watch called on Colombian authorities to investigate possible motives for the attack, and strive to find those responsible.
“Calderon’s hard-hitting investigative reporting has been crucial to human rights and the rule of law in Colombia,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities should swiftly investigate those responsible for this grave attack on freedom of expression, and hold them to account.”