Reporters Without Borders expressed concern today about the arrest of radio journalist Emiro Goyeneche, who was picked up in the eastern province of Arauca on 20 August on suspicion of collaborating with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas and accused of "rebellion." It called for his legal situation to be urgently clarified and his rights to be respected.
"The accusations against him are only based on the word of supposed guerrilla deserters and the use of such evidence could lead to serious legal errors," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard warned in a letter to the country’s prosecutor-general, Luis Camilo Osorio. "Arauca is one of the most dangerous provinces for journalists and his arrest must not turn into a new attack on press freedom."
Goyeneche, one of the main presenters with the radio station Sarare Estereo, in the town of Saravena (Arauca province), was arrested during a military operation while he was doing his morning show. He was accused of "rebellion".
He and 29 other people also arrested for "rebellion" were taken at once to Bogota, where Goyeneche has been held in prison since 22 August. His lawyer, Daniel Acevedo, said he was innocent and his colleagues called his arrest "a mistake." Many people arrested in earlier sweeps on the basis of reports by presumed rebel deserters had to be released for lack of evidence.
Goyeneche had left Saravena for Bogota in early April after appearing on a rightist paramilitary hit list and had obtained protection under the government’s scheme to protect threatened journalists. He had since returned to Saravena and resumed work at the radio, but did not broadcast "sensitive" news so as avoid disputes with the armed groups and the authorities.