The release of two policemen and a soldier who were supposed to be released by the FARC respectively earlier in the day and Saturday after journalists has been suspended indefinitely after reporters impeded a humanitarian mission to meet with the hostages and their captors, the Red Cross said Thursday.
According to Jordi Raich, spokesperson of the Red Cross, the humanitarian mission of Red Cross delegates and representatives of peace activist group Colombians for Peace was followed by “a swarm of journalists” after leaving the city of Cali to pick up the hostages.
The alleged lack of discretion by the reporters impeded the group to reach the agreed location where the rebels were planning to hand over the captured members of the security forces..
Because of the alleged harassment, Saturday’s release of a soldier who was captured by rebels late January has also been suspended indefinitely, said the Red Cross spokesman.
“We respect the freedom of expression but operations like this must be carried out safely and discretely,” Raich said at a press conference in the capital Bogota.
Because of this, the spokesman asked reporters for “respect for the confidentiality of the operation of the humanitarian mission.”
Ex-senator Piedad Cordoba, leader of Colombians for Peace, called on her followers to “not be discouraged.”
President Juan Manuel Santos responded agitated.
“Apparently, due to the interference of some members of some members of the media, the FARC decided not to release the two policemen they had promised to release. This is unacceptable,” said the head of state.
According to Medellin newspaper El Colombiano, there had been tension amongst the reporters over the alleged preferential treatment given to foreign journalists.
The FARC captured the policemen while investigating extortion charges in the southwestern Valle del Cauca department late last month. The soldier was taken by rebels during combat in the southwestern Nariño department.
The rebels banned kidnapping for economical and political reason in February last year. It has since held “prisoners of war” but these were released within weeks after their kidnapping, apparently without ransom.
The rebel group has been involved in formal peace talks with the Santos administration since late last year. Both parties have expressed their desire to end the armed conflict between rebels and state that has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions over the past decades.