Kidnapped journalists released

New York, October 11, 2000 — Guerrilla forces from the National Liberation Army (ELN) released reporter Jaime Horacio Arango and photographer Jesús Abad Colorado on October 8, two days after abducting them at a roadblock in the central department of Antioquia, according to local reports and CPJ sources.

Arango and Abad Colorado, who work for the Medellín daily El Colombiano, were sent to cover an ELN roadblock on the highway linking Bogotá to Medellín, the capital of Antioquia. They were stopped by ELN guerrillas on October 6 between the towns of El Santuario and Cocorná, and their white jeep was burned. The journalists’ driver, Fabio Sánchez, was allowed to leave, and he arrived at Medellín later that night.

The following day, after the ELN announced a 24-hour cease-fire in the area, a delegation from the non-governmental organization Antioquia Commission to Facilitate Peace (Comisión Facilitadora de Paz de Antioquia) met with the guerrillas to secure the release of the journalists.

On October 8, the ELN released Arango and Abad Colorado into the custody of the delegation in a rural area in the municipality of Granada, in eastern Antioquia.

Arango and Abad Colorado were the second group of journalists reporting on the roadblock on the Bogotá-Medellín highway to be kidnapped within 48 hours. On October 5, ELN guerrillas released Andrés Gil, Gustavo González, and Pedro Pinto, members of a TV crew with channel RCN TV, 13 hours after they had been abducted in a remote area in Antioquia.

The ELN’s apparent motive for the kidnappings was to protest the lack of coverage in the Colombian media of alleged human rights abuses by the Colombian Army against civilians in eastern Antioquia. Speaking to RCN TV on October 6, ELN commander “Timoleón” accused the Colombian Army of restricting food supplies into the area and carrying out power cuts.

“We’re deeply concerned that the practice of kidnapping journalists has become routine in Colombia,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “The ELN must refrain from using violence or the threat of violence to influence coverage or intimidate journalists.”