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Colombia and Ecuador must take action for abducted El Comercio journalism team

Relatives and friends of Javier Ortega, Paúl Rivas and Efraín Segarra demonstrate in Quito, April 1 2018.
Relatives and friends of Javier Ortega, Paúl Rivas and Efraín Segarra demonstrate in Quito, April 1 2018.

Cristina Vega/Getty Images

Mr. Juan Manuel Santos
President of the Republic of Colombia

Mr. Lenín Moreno Garcés
President of the Republic of Ecuador


Dear Mr. Presidents,

The journalists, academics, activists and organizations signing this letter send you our warmest regards. On the afternoon of March 26, 2018, a team of journalists from the Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio were sadly kidnapped. This team was made up of a reporter, a photographer and a driver, and the incident took place in Mataje, located north of Esmeraldas, an area bordering Colombia where recent attacks attributed to armed dissident groups of the FARC have already claimed the lives of four Ecuadorian soldiers.

Over 500 Ecuadorian journalists have now signed this letter requesting that their colleagues be released, emphasizing that "we demand joint responsibility on this issue, as these rebel groups, operating on this shared border, come from Colombia and are the product of members of FARC guerilla groups being demobilized."

For this reason our signatories propose that the Colombian and Ecuadorian governments coordinate all necessary actions required to rescue our colleagues. Colombian-Ecuadorian border security is the responsibility of both nations, and they should both ensure safety for the kidnapped journalists.

We insist that these Ecuadorian journalists were there to report on events of great public interest, and these countries have a sacred duty to protect such work and the integrity of journalists.

We would like to remind you, Mr. Presidents, that acts of violence against journalists and members of the press constitute one of the most extreme forms of censorship. The Inter-American System, in its document titled "Inter-American Standards and National Practices on Prevention, Protection and Prosecution of Perpetrators with Regard to Violence against Journalists and Media Workers", has confirmed that it is the State's responsibility to guarantee the free exercise of journalism.

The IACHR has recognized that visiting communities affected by armed conflict situations, documenting their living conditions, and collecting testimonies and allegations of human rights violations forms part of journalistic activities, are all covered by the right to freedom of expression.

Likewise, in its document titled "Inter-American Standards and National Practices on Prevention, Protection and Prosecution of Perpetrators with Regard to Violence against Journalists and Media Workers," the IACHR has confirmed that it is the State's responsibility to guarantee the free exercise of journalism.

With the recent disclosure of the video proof that they are alive, we now know that contrary to what has been stated by the authorities in Ecuador, their condition is neither good nor stable, and deeply undermine their human dignity. There have been 9 days without results from the negotiations, and the passing of time works against the continued health of the imprisoned journalists. More transparency is needed from the government of Ecuador, and more collaboration with the government of Colombia.

Against this background, the journalists and organizations that sign below call upon the Ecuadorian and Colombian governments:

  • 1. Recognize that the situation is a serious violation of press freedom, and that it is the obligation of both states to protect, promote and guarantee this right. Therefore, all necessary measures must be to guarantee the safety of those exercising journalism in complex contexts like the Colombian-Ecuadorian border.

  • 2. To protect the welfare of the El Comercio journalists who were working in the conflict zone, and avoid operations that could place their welfare at risk. It must be recognized that their abduction is not an ordinary crime, and the kidnapping of journalists requires specific protocols.

  • 3. To recognize that there is a serious security situation at the border of Ecuador and Colombia that involves both countries and demands action from both. Action must be taken by both states to control their border territories.

  • 4. To be transparent with information about what happens with the journalism team and the general security situation at the border.

  • 5. Provide necessary guarantees to enable the presence of international humanitarian organizations like the international Red Cross as soon as possible, to help facilitate the liberation of the team.

Our kindest regards,

Signed:

Fundamedios - Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study
Artigo 19 (Brazil)
Association for Civil Rights
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Centro de Archivos y Acceso a la Información Pública
Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Derechos Digitales
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Freedom House
Fundación Karisma
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de Venezuela
National Press Association
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión - OLA
Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

Asociación de la Prensa Uruguaya, APU
Canal Internacional NTN24
Colegio de Periodistas de Chile.
Fundación Panamericana para el Desarrollo, PADF
Fundamedios USA
RCN NOTICIAS
Red de Periodistas de Chile
Carlos Ponce, Director de los Programas del América Latina, Freedom House
John Dinges, Godfrey Lowell Cabot Professor, Columbia University.
Claudia Méndez Arriaza, Periodista Guatemala
Héctor Schamis, columnista de diario El País de España y catedrático de la universidad de Georgetown
Ewald Scharfenberg, periodista venezolano
Constanza Vieira, corresponsal en Colombia de Inter Press Service
Claudia Gurisatti, Directora General NTN24
Andrea Bernal, periodista de NTN 24
Salud Hernández-Mora, El Mundo (España)
Jim Wyss, Jefe de la oficina de América del Sur The Miami Herald
Patricia Garip, independiente EEUU-Chile
Edelmiro Franco corresponsal Notimex
María Teresa Escobar, independiente, Ecuador-Colombia.
Paco Gómez Nadal, Colombia Plural.
Matthew Bristow, Bloomberg
Florence Panoussian, Directora AFP para Colombia y Ecuador
Jaime Ortega, director de la Agencia EFE en Colombia
Alessandro Rampietti, Al Jazeera English
Lokman ilhan, Agencia anadolu, Turquia
Daniel Salgar Antolinez, Agencia Anadolu, Turquía
Héctor Estepa, periodista independiente, España
Francesco Manetto, Delegado de EL PAÍS de Madrid en Colombia
Ana Marcos, Delegado de EL PAÍS de Madrid en Colombia
Santiago Torrado, Delegado de EL PAÍS de Madrid en Colombia
Pascale Mariani, periodista independiente
Audrey Huse, periodista independiente
Natalio Cosoy, periodista independiente
Aitor Sáez, periodista independiente
Gonzalo Domínguez, periodista de Agencia EFE de Colombia
Jorge Gil, periodista de Agencia EFE de Colombia
Mauricio Dueñas, periodista de Agencia EFE de Colombia
Hugo Penso, periodista de Agencia EFE de Colombia
Daniel Suárez, periodista de Agencia EFE de Colombia
Leonardo Muñoz, periodista de Agencia EFE de Colombia
Ernesto Guzmán Jr., periodista de Agencia EFE de Colombia
Ricardo Maldonado, periodista de Agencia EFE de Colombia

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