Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Colombia: Telesur Reporter Jailed for "rebellion and terrorism"

Telesur correspondent wrongly detained for "rebellion and terrorism"

Reporters Without Borders has protested against the arrest and questioning in Bogota of Freddy Muñoz, correspondent in Colombia for the international Latin-American channel Telesur, for “rebellion and terrorism”. The organisation called for his release.

Muñoz, 36, was seized on 19 November 2006 by Colombian intelligence agents from the Administrative Department for Security (DAS) after he landed in Bogota on his return from the Venezuelan capital Caracas where he had attended a training workshop. He had left a week earlier with no trouble.

His lawyer, Tito Gaitán, told Agence France-Presse that the journalist had been arrested on the orders of the prosecutor’s office for “rebellion and terrorism”. Freddy Muñoz himself, speaking from prison, pointed the finger at the Colombian and US governments.

In 2005, Telesur broadcast interviews with guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), seen as terrorist organisations by Bogota and Washington. The TV channel also broadcast footage of demonstrations against President Alvaro Uribe, who at the time expressed his “disquiet”, while the United States called it “provocation”.

“The arrest of Freddy Muñoz is a simple case of misuse of power,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “If it turns out that it was indeed linked to be the broadcast a year ago on Telesur of interviews with the guerrillas, then the Colombian government has made itself guilty of a press freedom violation. How can a journalist interviewing an alleged terrorist become a terrorist in his turn? If this is the argument, it is absurd and dangerous. Freddy Muñoz must be released,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Telesur was founded at the instigation of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in a bid to counter the influence of the north-American TV news channels. Its headquarters is in Caracas and it is funded by the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina and Uruguay. It has ten bureaux and 19 correspondents in Latin-America.


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