Seven months ago, three employees of the Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio were abducted in the Mataje River region on the border between Ecuador and Colombia. After almost three weeks in captivity, reporter Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas, and their driver, Efrain Segarra, were executed by the Oliver Sinisterra Front, a group of former FARC guerillas and drug traffickers who operate in this lawless jungle. The murders punctuated a season of escalating violence, the likes of which Ecuador hasn’t seen in decades.
The official version of events remains full of inconsistencies, and the victims’ families are still waiting for answers. Why was a government representative dispatched to the border to await the journalists’ release, only to return empty-handed? Why was the El Comercio staff permitted in the area after El Guacho, the guerilla leader, had openly threatened civilians? The police could hardly feign ignorance: They had a secret communications channel with the rebels, and the transcripts clearly show their intentions.
An international team of more than 20 reporters, photojournalists, and videographers worked for four months to investigate the abduction and murder of their Ecuadorian colleagues, as well as to continue their reporting. Six organizations collaborated with OCCRP on the project: Fundacion para la Libertad de la Prensa (FLIP, Colombia), La Liga Contra El Silencio (Colombia), Periodistas sin Cadenas (Ecuador), Fundamedios (Ecuador), Verdad Abierta (Colombia), and Forbidden Stories (France).