BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Police in Colombia are investigating the murder of two journalists who were gunned down while returning home from a county fair.
Leyner Montero and Dilia Contreras were driving before dawn Sunday when men on motorcycles shot at their vehicle as they approached the town of Fundacion in northern Colombia, according to police.
Authorities said they are still not certain if the attack was linked to their journalistic work. Montero ran a community radio station in Fundacion that aired local news and cultural events, while Contreras ran a local news website and had recently been hired as a press officer for Fundacion’s municipal government. Police said Montero had been involved in a fight in the county fair that both journalists had attended over the weekend.
Colombia is the second most deadly country for journalists in Latin America after Mexico. According to the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, nine journalists have been murdered in Colombia because of their work since 2016, when the nation’s government signed a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that ended five decades of war.
In the 1990s and early 2000’s murders of journalists in Colombia were twice as high, and attacks against the media included the car bombing of a national newspaper’s headquarters.
Juan Pappier, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the killing of Contreras and Montero was “one of the worst attacks” on Colombian journalists in recent years.
“It is a sour reminder that security and protection strategies need to be improved” Pappier said.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who who assumed office earlier this month, called for an investigation.