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Colombian media blamed for hampering prisoner release by guerrillas

Update: On Friday afternoon, Feb. 15, the International Committee of the Red Cross (IRCR) reported that it received the two freed police officers and they received medical attention, reported the newspaper El Tiempo.

Original report: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC in Spanish) guerrillas postponed the Thursday, Feb. 14 release of two kidnapped police officers in the country, alleging persecution from the media, reported the newspaper El Colombiano. The ICRC delegate for southwestern Colombia, Angela Bertini, reported the news, according to the publication.

Piedad Córdoba, ex-Senator and mediator with the guerrilla group, also tweeted that the media’s presence was complicating the humanitarian effort and that the FARC decided to postpone the release. ICRC’s Colombia delegate, Jodi Raich, agreed with Córdoba, saying that a “flood” of journalists was following the humanitarian caravan, hindering the hostage delivery, reported the newspaper El Heraldo.

However, journalists covering the delivery questioned how their presence, 200 meters away from the event, could have affected the release and wondered if the result might have been different if reporters from the Venezuelan television station Telesur had been there instead, reported the newspaper El Tiempo.

Colombian President Juan Manual Santos said it was “unacceptable” that the humanitarian mission failed to achieve its objective and added, “No one understands why the presence of some media organizations, which are not under the control of the government, deprive or continue to deprive the freedom of these police officers. I demand the FARC free them now,” according to El Tiempo.

Nevertheless, the president decided to extend the cessation of military operations in the area with the hope of securing the police officers’ release on Friday, Feb. 15, reported the newspaper El Espectador.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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