RSF calls for release of Dutch journalists held by ELN in Colombia

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the Colombian authorities to do everything possible to facilitate the release of two Dutch journalists held by ELN guerrillas in the northern Catatumbo region for the past four days.


UPDATE (JUNE 26th): The journalists Derk Johannes Bolt and Eugenio Ernest Marie Follender were all released by the ELN in the late afternoon of June 23th.


Reporter/presenter Derk Johannes Bolt, 62, and cameraman Eugenio Ernest Marie Follender, 58, who work for the Dutch TV channel KRO-NCRV, went missing in this remote region near the Venezuelan border on 17 June.

They went to El Tarra, a municipality that has not been under government control for several years, to do a report for the popular Dutch TV programme Spoorloos and were trying to find the relatives of a Colombian girl who was adopted by a Dutch couple.

The authorities and the army, which has dispatched soldiers to the area, say the Dutch journalists have been abducted by the National Liberation Army (ELN), a rebel group that has controlled the area in recent years and does tolerate the presence of cameras.

The information obtained by RSF confirms that the two journalists are indeed being held by the ELN and that the ELN wants to verify that they are not Colombian army spies or members of paramilitary groups before freeing them.

We urge the Colombian authorities to conduct negotiations for the release of Bolt and Follender as quickly as possible,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau.

The Colombian government must also do everything possible to restore order and ensure that its citizens and journalists are able to move about freely and safely in the Catatumbo area, which has become a news and information black hole.

The ELN abducted Salud Hernández-Mora, a journalist with Spanish and Colombian dual nationality, and Colombian journalists Diego D’Pablos and Carlos Melo in the same region in May 2016, releasing them all a few days later.

Colombia is ranked 129th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 26.06.2017