Muñoz, Colombian correspondent for the regional television network Telesur, was detained by agents of the Colombian national intelligence service, the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), at Eldorado International Airport in Bogotá as he returned from Telesur headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela. The arrest warrant charged him with “rebellion and terrorism,” Rodrigo Barrera Barinas, a spokesman for the attorney general, told CPJ.
The DAS said in a statement that a three-year investigation led authorities to link Muñoz to a series of explosions in 2000 and 2002 that destroyed electrical towers in the northern cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena. The explosions have been linked to the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The DAS statement said the arrest relied on witness testimony and intelligence reports. Barrera said evidence would not be made public until the investigation was concluded, but he said the arrest was not related to Muñoz’s work as a journalist.
In a statement issued from prison on November 20, Muñoz denied the charges.
Esther Hernández, Telesur’s director of institutional affairs, said in an interview with CPJ that the arrest was in reprisal for the correspondent’s work. Muñoz primarily covered human rights issues, but he had recently reported on the arrests of several congressmen accused of links to paramilitary fighters. That issue is very sensitive because the government has repeatedly denied any official connections to paramilitaries. Muñoz has had a long career in the Colombian media as a television producer and as an editor for Cartagena and Bogotá newspapers.
The Colombian government has accused Telesur of fomenting terrorism since it began broadcasting in 2005, Hernández told CPJ. In one of Telesur’s initial broadcasts, the network showed images of FARC leader Manuel Marulanda, prompting criticism from President Álvaro Uribe Vélez’s administration. The network was created at the urging of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías to promote his perspective throughout the hemisphere.
Muñoz was initially taken to DAS headquarters in Bogotá then moved to the agency’s offices in the northern city of Barranquilla, about 590 miles (950 kilometers) away, a Telesur source told CPJ. On November 27, Muñoz was transferred to Cartagena, where he was being held when CPJ conducted its annual census on December 1.