Photographer missing, feared abducted

New York, January 28, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned that a Colombian photographer is missing and feared abducted. On Saturday, January 22, Hernán Echeverri Arboleda, a photographer with the bimonthly regional newspaper Urabá Hoy (Urabá Today), disappeared on a rural highway in northwestern Colombia.

Assailants thought to be members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) abducted the journalist at around 5 p.m., according to the Colombian army. Jairo Banquett Páez, the newspaper’s director, told CPJ that Echeverri had traveled to Medellín to visit his grandson and his wife. Along the way, Echeverri was distributing copies of Urabá Hoy‘s latest edition, according to Banquett.

The photographer was carrying his camera, his press credentials, and a photographer’s vest, as well as copies of the newspaper, when he was apparently abducted, Banquett said. The December edition gave extensive coverage of to the demobilization of the right-wing paramilitary United Self-Defense forces of Colombia (AUC) in the region.

The local press reported that the army has started operations to rescue the photographer. In the past, the FARC has sometimes acknowledged kidnapping journalists but has not yet said anything about Echeverri.

Urabá Hoy is a small regional newspaper based in the town of Apartadó.

Echeverri, 64, is also an investor in the newspaper, Banquett told CPJ. The photographer also works for a local nonprofit organization and was a candidate for the Apartadó City Council in the October 2003 elections.

Armed groups in Colombia have been fighting in a civil conflict for more than 40 years.