Rebels detain journalists for two days

Bogotá, August 9, 2002—The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) detained two newspaper journalists and their driver in Colombia on Tuesday, August 6, freeing them unharmed two days later, CPJ has learned.

Iván Noguera and Héctor Fabio Zamora, a correspondent and photographer, respectively, for El Tiempo, Colombia’s largest daily, and their driver, Henry Gómez, were forced out of their vehicle by about 10 FARC fighters outside the town of Mistrató in western Colombia.

The three men had traveled to the town from their office in nearby Pereira, capital of Risaralda Department, to report on local indigenous groups that have been caught in the middle of fighting between leftist rebels and rival paramilitary fighters in the region, Noguera told CPJ.

The rebels marched them for two hours through the mountains to a farmhouse, where they were held for two nights before being released early Thursday, August 8.

Although the rebels robbed the newspaper’s Toyota truck and confiscated five rolls of film, Noguera said he and his colleagues were never mistreated.

The FARC did not explain why the men were being detained but complained to them that Colombia’s press is slandering the 17,000-strong rebel army and kowtowing to the army, Noguera said.

For the last 38 years, the FARC and a smaller rebel army have been fighting against paramilitaries and the government in a civil conflict. Tensions in Risaralda have been rising for two months following the arrival of dozens of paramilitary fighters, said Noguera.