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Ecuador gives kidnappers 12 hours for news on abducted reporters

April 13, 2018

Ecuador’s president gave renegade Colombian rebels 12 hours Thursday night to show whether three abducted reporters are alive, or face a forceful response.

The government Thursday received photos Thursday from the Colombian TV station RCN suggesting the three had been killed.

The journalists were abducted by rogue forces of Colombia’s FARC guerrillas along the countries’ shared border on March 26.

President Lenin Moreno, in an emotional speech, said if the government does not receive word on the team’s status “we will move forcefully … not hesitating to punish these human rights violators,” the president said.

He spoke at Quito airport upon his return from a regional summit in Peru. “The clock starts clicking right now,” Moreno said.

Reporter Javier Ortega, 32, photographer Paul Rivas, 45, and their driver Efrain Segarra, 60, were kidnapped by rogue Colombian FARC guerrillas on March 26 at the Ecuador-Colombia border.

On April 3, Colombia’s RCN television aired a 23-second video showing the trio wearing chains with locks around their necks, the first proof of being alive.

One of the hostages asked Moreno to reach an agreement for their release.

Moreno in turn announced his government “will do everything possible and impossible so that they return safe and sound,” according to a spokesman.

Moreno decided to return urgently to Quito after a Colombian television channel announced it had received photographs that show the three journalists may be dead.

The journalists were on assignment in the border area where Ecuadoran security forces have come under a series of deadly attacks blamed on rogue FARC elements involved in drug trafficking.

The larger FARC movement reached a historic peace agreement with the Colombian government in 2016.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.