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Police control traffic in a street in Ecuador's capital, Quito, in February 2017. Three members of a reporting team were abducted on March 26 while reporting in the country's northern Esmeraldas province, according to reports. (Reuters/Mariana Bazo)

Two journalists, driver kidnapped in Ecuador near Colombia border

March 27, 2018 4:45 PM ET

New York, March 27, 2018 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists today called for the immediate release of three members of a reporting team from the daily El Comercio newspaper, who were kidnapped yesterday morning in northern Ecuador near the Colombian border.

A reporter, a photojournalist, and their driver were kidnapped early yesterday morning while reporting in the San Lorenzo canton in the northern Esmeraldas province, which borders southern Colombia, according to news reports and Ecuadoran officials. In a press conference this morning, Ecuadoran Interior Minister César Navas said the government had been in contact with the kidnappers and believed the three El Comercio employees were unharmed and being held across the border in Colombia, but did not offer any other details, citing the ongoing investigation. El Comercio did not identify the crew by name.

"We are concerned for the safety of the El Comercio journalists and their driver, and urge Ecuadoran and Colombian authorities to act swiftly to ensure their safe and immediate release," said Natalie Southwick, CPJ's Central and South America research associate. "Armed actors based in Colombia should recognize the civilian status of journalists, regardless of which side of the border they are on."

Reporters covering the conflict in Colombia's border regions have long been victims of aggression from various armed groups. In June 2017, two Dutch reporters were briefly abducted by the ELN rebel group while reporting near the Colombian-Venezuelan border.

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