“One must continue covering this conflict” – with this comment, French freelance reporter Roméo Langlois said it all within minutes of his release yesterday after being held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for a month in the southern department of Caquetá.
Significantly, Langlois appeared with a camera in his hand in the locality of San Isidro, where the FARC handed him over to a humanitarian delegation consisting of an International Committee of the Red Cross representative, former Colombian senator Piedad Córdoba and the French government’s special envoy, Jean-Baptiste Chauvin.
He was given a welcome last night at the French embassy in Bogotá and was due to fly today to France (arriving in Paris tomorrow morning).
“Langlois never ceased to behave as a journalist throughout his month-long captivity,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The words he spoke at the moment of his release reflect a determination and commitment that are intrinsic to his profession. They highlight the fact that Colombia’s civil war is often forgotten by the outside world and covering it continues to be a challenge.
“How many journalists, community spokespeople and human rights defenders continue to have to endure the threats coming from all sides – from the paramilitaries, the guerrillas and even the armed forces? Langlois’ message is as relevant now as it ever was.”
Reporters Without Borders would like to express its best wishes to the Langlois family and pay tribute to the unfailing attention to the cause of his release that his colleague, Pascale Mariani, the staff of France 24 and RFI, and many Colombian journalists and media displayed throughout his captivity.
We also thank the Roméo Langlois Support Committee, in particular, the producer Cédric Delport and the reporters Etienne Huver and Jean-Pierre Canet, who kept us abreast of all the developments they were monitoring.
Immediately after his release, Langlois confirmed that he identified himself as a journalist to the guerrillas during their 28 April shootout with an army unit, just before he was taken prisoner. He said the FARC rebels treated the gunshot injury to the arm that he received during the shootout, and that they “treated me as a guest” during his 30 days in captivity.
He was also given an apology by the guerrillas, who had undertaken on 26 February to stop taking civilians hostage.
Although Reporters Without Borders has tried to defuse the controversy surrounding Langlois’ captivity, it firmly condemns tweets posted by former President Alvaro Uribe after his release that were designed to smear his reputation. Accusing Langlois of “complicity with terrorism” was disgraceful.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Uribe has tried to sully a journalist’s reputation in this manner. One day, he must be called to account.