03 April 1998



MIAMI, Florida (April 3) –The Inter American Press Association, through its Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, issued a public call today to the National Liberation Army (ELN) Colombian guerrilla group to free nine television news crew members it kidnapped and is holding captive. The reporters, cameramen and crew work for various Colombian television news programs. They were seized when they went to cover the freeing in San Pablo, in the northern province of Bolívar, of four other persons previously kidnapped by the guerrillas. The chairman of IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Danilo Arbilla, demanded that the journalists be freed unharmed immediately. "Journalists must not be used as the means of sending a message or demand of any political group," he declared. Arbilla, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, news magazine Búsqueda, added that "we must be fooled by the euphemistic vocabulary the guerrillas use to try and disguise what is clearly a kidnapping. It is a case of unlawfully depriving not just one but nine persons of their freedom. It is obviously a kidnapping and a clear violation of human rights." According to figures compiled by the IAPA, 52 journalists have been kidnapped in Colombia in less than 10 years ­ the highest number in any Latin American country. Arbilla said that "it is surprising that while the ELN just a few months ago asked the IAPA to take part in a peace teleconference, now it is discrediting the role of the press and depriving the entire Colombia people of their right to be informed by kidnapping journalists whose only fault has been precisely to want to inform." Those kidnapped by the ELN were reporters Rocío Chica of "Noticiero de las Siete," Ana Mercedes Ariza of "Noticiero CMI-TV" and Javier Santoyo of "Noticiero de la Noche," cameramen Edgar Osma, Gonzalo Cepeda, Marcos Quintero and Fernando Mogollón, and production crew Reinaldo Pérez and Saúl García.