UPDATE: Colombian Rebel Group Acknowledges Kidnapping Journalist
IPI Calls on Authorities to Guarantee Her Safety
By: Mariela Hoyer Guerrero, Press Freedom Adviser, Latin America and the Caribbean
VIENNA, July 30, 2012 – The National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of Élida Parra Alfonso, who was abducted on 24 July, the newspaper El Tiempo reported. The journalist hosted a program on children's rights for the Sarare Stereo radio station, and also worked for the company managing the Bicentennial Pipeline in Saravena, the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) reported.
While it is still unknown if Parra Alfonso was kidnapped for her reporting, the International Press Institute (IPI) called on the Colombian authorities to act promptly in order to guarantee her safety. The same day she disappeared, and under the same circumstances, Gina Paola Uribe Villamizar, an environmental engineer who worked for the Bicentennial Pipeline, was also abducted from her home.
In an eight-paragraph statement that the ELN sent to the families of Alfonso Parra and Uribe Villamizar, the armed group also claimed responsibility for the murder of an engineer working for the pipeline. "The rebels insist they will maintain attacks on oil infrastructure, contractors and multinational companies located in the bordering state (of Saravena)," El Tiempo reported. Meanwhile, the news agency Europa Press reported today that the family of one of the hostages received a phone call from the guerrillas claiming that the two women are in good health.
Two Journalists Missing in Latin America
IPI Calls on Authorities to Act Swiftly to Ensure Their Safety
By Molly Ochs, IPI Staff
VIENNA, July 26, 2012 – Two journalists were reported missing this week in Latin America: one in Mexico and one in Colombia.
Miguel Morales Estrada, who works as a photojournalist for the daily Diario de Poza Rica and as a freelancer for the newspaper Tribuna Papanteca in Papantla in the State of Veracruz, Mexico, was last seen Thursday in Veracruz.
In an unrelated event, Colombian journalist Élida Parra Alfonso, a broadcaster for Sarare Stereo Radio, was reportedly kidnapped in the city of Saravena in the north-eastern department of Arauca before noon on Tuesday.
The Veracruz Attorney General’s Office said in a statement that an investigation had been opened regarding Estrada’s disappearance after his wife contacted local authorities and reported that she had not seen him since July 19.
According to the same statement, Morales Estrada informed his directors at the Diario de Poza Rica before he disappeared that he would not send them photos as he was leaving town for “personal reasons”.
Local media reported that police have begun an investigation into the photojournalist’s disappearance, but little is known about the circumstances surrounding the disappearance.
As the government’s war on drug cartels continues to rage in Mexico, journalists are often targets of violence. According to IPI’s Death Watch, six journalists have been killed in Mexico this year, five of them in the State of Veracruz.
In Colombia, Alfonso hosted a program for children’s rights for Sarare Stereo Radio. She was also an employee for the company managing the Bicentennial Pipeline in Saravena, the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) reported.
It remained unclear today whether she was kidnapped because of her journalistic work. On the same day as Alfonso’s abduction, Gina Paola Uribe Villamizar, an environmental engineer who also worked for the Bicentennial Pipeline was kidnapped, the newspaper El Espectador reported.
News sources said that both women were abducted from their respective homes by unidentified assailants.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings in Mexico or Colombia.
“IPI urges authorities in Mexico and Colombia to do everything in their power to investigate these journalists’ disappearances and to ensure their safety,” IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said. “Over the course of previous decades, a pattern of kidnapping and killing journalists in response to their reporting has developed that, particularly in Mexico and Colombia, has led to numerous deaths. While we truly hope that Morales, Parra and Uribe are safe, it is vital that police act swiftly to investigate their disappearances.”