Journalists Protest at the Summit of Americas

Ecuadorian journalists held by Colombian rebels were confirmed dead on Friday
April 14, 2018 Updated: September 11, 2018    

LIMA, Peru—The Summit of the Americas meeting in Peru started with a media protest on Friday, April 13 condemning the killing of journalists by Colombian guerrillas.

“Hurray freedom of speech! … Hurray free press! Without freedom of the press, there is no democracy,” chanted the journalists.

The leaders of both Ecuador and Colombia confirmed on April 13 the deaths at the hands of Colombian insurgents of two Ecuadorean journalists and their driver, who had been kidnapped last month.

“Regrettably, we have information that confirms the murder of our compatriots,” Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said on state television. “It seems these criminals never planned to deliver them back safely.”

Reporter Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas, and driver Efrain Segarra were on assignment for Ecuadorian El Comercio newspaper on the border between Ecuador and Colombia when they were held hostage by former fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on March 26.

A proof-of-life photograph released shortly after their kidnapping showed them chained and padlocked by their necks.

On April 12, Moreno gave the guerilla group 12 hours to prove the El Comercio employees were alive or face a military operation.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos pledged full cooperation with Ecuador and said operations had begun against the rebels on both sides of the border.

“The FARC no longer exist… These are criminals dedicated to drug-trafficking,” he said at the summit in Lima. “They will feel the full force of the law and our armed forces.”

The FARC, which battled for more than a half a century, attacked military targets and civilian towns but generally allowed journalists to work freely unless they went against the rebels’ interests.

More than a thousand FARC fighters refused to demobilize under last year’s peace deal with Colombia and continued drug trafficking across the nation.

Reuters contributed to this report.