Four hostages released this weekend by Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) said at a press conference on Monday that the leftist guerrilla group had declared the Colombian media a "military target," according to Colombian and international news reports. The statement stirred a heated debate among Colombian journalists over coverage of guerrilla groups.
Police officers Juan Fernando Galicia, Walter José Lozano, Alexis Torres, and soldier William Giovanny Domínguez, who had been held hostage by FARC since 2007, were released on Sunday afternoon to a humanitarian mission led by the International Red Cross in the southeastern Colombian jungles, reports in the international press said. The four men gave gruesome details of their imprisonment at a press conference on Monday. As part of their account, Torres and Dominguez said FARC fighters believe the Colombian media is biased against them.
Domínguez said FARC fighters had threatened to kidnap or attack journalists who gave negative coverage to the group. Torres went further, warning journalists at the press conference, "You could also be a target for terrorist attacks, such as bombs at different media outlets," the national daily El Tiempo reported.
According to Torres, FARC fighters charged with handling hostages had confiscated all radios in late December. Agence France-Presse quoted Torres as saying that the fighters told hostages they would not be allowed to listen to the radio because the Colombian press "was not committed to being impartial."
The hostages' revelations generated a heated discussion among Colombian journalists. Well-known Colombian journalist and sociologist Alfredo Molano said the threat was a "grave" method for silencing the local press. Maura Achury, a spokeswoman for a local journalists' association, described the warning as "terrorism," while she urged reporters not to be intimidated, according to El Tiempo.