IAPA issues 'humanitarian call' to recover murdered Ecuadorean journalists' bodies

Families ask IAPA to mediate before the government of Colombia for it to be part of a bi-national work team.
MIAMI, Florida (May 25, 2018)—A delegation of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today announced a "humanitarian call" for the kidnappers and murderers of three employees of the Ecuadorean newspaper El Comercio to hand over the bodies of the victims so that their family members can close their period of mourning and anguish at more than one month since the tragedy occurred.

IAPA President Gustavo Mohme made the announcement to the victims' families during a meeting at the El Comercio building in Quito. At the same time the IAPA international delegation also expressed solidarity with the staff and editor of the newspaper, Carlos Mantilla, in a ceremony held in the paper's newsroom.

The victims were journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Paúl Rivas and driver Efraín Segarra. They were kidnapped on March 26 and murdered on April 13 this year by a dissident group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla movement on the border between Colombia and Ecuador, commanded by Wálter Patricio Arizala Vernaza, a.k.a. El Guacho.

During the meeting with family members (Galo Ortega, Mariana Reyes and Raúl Borja, from the Ortega's family; Ricardo Rivas and Yadira Aguagallo, from the Rivas' family and Cristhian Segarra, from the Segarra's family) Mohme explained that the IAPA will make this humanitarian call through a campaign of dissemination and public awareness that will be coordinated jointly with members of the IAPA, of the Ecuadorean Association of Newspaper Editors and Publishers (AEDEP) and of the Colombian News Media Association (AMI).

In a prior audience with the president of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, Mohme declared that the return of the bodies in addition to allowing the families to mourn will also serve to negotiate bureaucratic processes regarding the payment of life insurances and other state benefits that the families should receive. In the event that the bodies are not handed over Mohme urged Moreno to enable the necessary steps for the deaths of the victims to be certified and thus open up the path for the benefits to be able to be untangled.

The IAPA thanked President Moreno and urged him to continue working with his Colombian colleague, President Juan Manuel Santos, for investigation of the crime to be continued and the murderers brought to justice.

During that meeting in the Carondelet Palace Roberto Rock, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, suggested to Moreno the creation of a system of protection and security for journalists, like those that exist in Colombia and Mexico.

Moreno told the IAPA that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will accompany the investigations concerning the crime, with a delegation made up of the Rapporteur for Ecuador, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza, and two human rights specialists of the institution.

Also, the families asked the IAPA to intercede before the government of Colombia for it to agree to be part of a bi-national work team that the IACHR will shortly convene.

The IAPA delegation also announced this campaign to members of Congress Cristina Reyes, Fabricio Villamar, Mae Montaño and Elio Peña, to Governor Francisco Quishpe, to the president of the National Journalists Union, Guadalupe Fierro and to other civil society leaders, with whom it also held discussions on the amendment of the Communication Law.

In addition to Mohme, editor of La República, Peru, and Roberto Rock, editor of the Mexican news portal La Silla Rota, the IAPA delegation was made up of María Elvira Domínguez, IAPA first vice president and editor of El País of Cali, Colombia, Edward Seaton, former IAPA president and director of Seaton Newspapers, Kansas, and Ricardo Trotti, the organization's executive director. At the meeting with the families there also participated Gabriela Vivanco, executive of La Hora, Quito, and Nicanor Merchán, editor of El Mercurio, Cuenca.

The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.