Rebels kidnap two journalists, release one

Bogotá, November 16, 2000 — National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla fighters released Colombian television journalist Carlos Armando Uribe on November 9, a week after kidnapping him in central Tolima province. The guerrillas continue to hold his colleague, TV producer Jorge Otalora.

Uribe, 42, told CPJ that he and Otalora, 60, were seized at pistol-point by seven plainclothes members of the so-called Bolshevik Front, a unit of the ELN, in the village of El Olimpo on the afternoon of November 2. A camera crew working with the men was not detained.

The pair had just completed an episode of “The Adventures of Professor Yarumo,” a weekly program that highlights the work of the National Coffee Growers’ Federation. The show is sponsored by the Federation, produced by Otalora, and hosted by Uribe, who plays Professor Yarumo. It is broadcast every Friday on the national Canal Uno channel.

In exchange for releasing Otalora, the guerrilla group has called on the government and the Federation to pledge money for road improvements in northern Tolima, Uribe said.

Uribe is a qualified agronomist who has worked for the National Coffee Growers’ Federation for the last 15 years. He also writes a weekend opinion column for the regional newspaper La Tarde, based in Pereira, in the central department of Risaralda, and hosts a weekly radio show for the RCN network.

Otalora holds a degree in business management and is a long-time producer for the Federation’s TV shows.

During his kidnapping, Uribe said, he and Otalora were forced to march between three and five hours a day, clad in ELN camouflage uniforms. The men were guarded by as many as 30 guerrillas armed with assault rifles, and were locked in small wooden huts at night.

“We call on the ELN to release our colleague Jorge Otalora at once,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Kidnapping journalists is not a legitimate way to obtain improvements in infrastructure. It is also a clear violation of humanitarian law.”