Over a month after the FARC’s kidnapping of Romeo Langlois, a war journalist for France 24, the guerrillas have released him safely and without harm.
Negotiations with FARC for Langlois’s release involved government officials and the Red Cross. FARC representatives had issued a statement over the weekend announcing that the journalist, who has covered the civil conflict in Colombia for 10 years, would be turned over and arrive in the city of Florencia Wednesday night.
“I always knew that I was going to get out of this pretty quickly,” Langlois told a group of reporters, “but I did not think it would last as long as it did. I have been very well treated. I have received apologies from the guerrillas for having declared me a prisoner of war, for having withheld me for so long.”
Langlois was captured over a month ago while reporting alongside an operation of the Colombian military.
His release by FARC was conditioned on a ceasefire in the Caqueta area lasting until Thursday, as negotiated by Colombian Red Cross representative Jordi Raich, Deputy Defence Minister Jorge Bedoya, and French Ambassador Juan-Pierre Vandoorne.
Periodically throughout Langlois’s time as a hostage, the FARC has released statements criticising coverage of the civil conflict in Colombia as imbalanced, partly because of journalists embedded with the Colombian military.
Langlois stated in a video released this weekend that he has covered both sides of the conflict and sought the opinions of everyone. Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, however, known as a hardliner against the FARC, criticised Langlois on Twitter.
“Langlois: one thing is journalistic curiosity and another is identifying with terrorism,” Uribe’s post said.
France 24 CEO Alain de Pouzilhac rejoiced at Langlois’s release.
“The release of Romeo is a great relief…I also note the FARC has kept its word. We share the happiness of his family, friends, and relatives.”
The FARC’s insurgency, dating to the 1960s, is the longest standing confrontation of its kind in Latin America.
Weakened in recent years, the guerrilla forces have continued to use kidnappings and attacks on Colombian security forces to bolster their demand for dialogue. They have instead sharpened the government’s focus on FARC in combatting counter-terrorism and drug trafficking.
In February, FARC said it would end its practice of kidnapping civilians for money, though the non-profit Free Country Foundation reports that hundreds of civilians still remain FARC prisoners throughout Colombia.
Despite releasing 10 government hostages in the spring, FARC has not renounced capturing hostages for political purposes.
Advocates of freedom in the press, meanwhile, have criticised FARC for its capture of the journalist Langlois, calling it a setback for press freedom in Colombia.
“We urge FARC to end the unacceptable practice of taking journalists hostage, thus depriving Colombian citizens of vital, independent information about the civil conflict,” said a statement from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.