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Ecuadorian journalist names murdered on duty
Journalist Javier Ortega, photojournalist Paul Rivas, and the team’s driver Efraín Segarra.Photo: Francisco Caceres Guillen

Newseum acknowledges two Latin American journalists in D.C

The names of journalist Javier Ortega and photojournalist Paul Rivas will be added to the Newseum Memorial. 

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On June 3, Newseum will add 21 new names to its Journalists Memorial, including those of two Ecuadorian journalists kidnapped and murdered in 2018.  

On March 26, journalist Javier Ortega, photojournalist Paul Rivas, and the team’s driver Efraín Segarra were following a series of attacks against the Ecuadorian security forces by the guerilla movement Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) when they were kidnapped.

The reporters were held captive for 16 days, before being murdered at the hands of FARC’s branch  Óliver Sinisterra, commanded by Walter Arisala, alias Guacho.

A year after the event, the families of the Ecuadorian journalists are still fighting to know what happened to their loved ones, and what the Ecuadorian government tried to do to get them back alive.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in 2018, 54 journalists across the globe were killed on the job. Out of the 21 being added to this year’s memorial, eight are from the Americas: four died at the Capital Gazette shooting, two died reporting on tropical storm Alberto and two died while covering FARC at the Ecuador-Colombia border.

For Ricardo Rivas — Paul Rivas' brother — this tribute is a bittersweet victory in their fight for answers.

“The wound is still pretty much open,” he said. “No one ever pictures themselves having a family member at a museum, for being murdered in the course of their duties." 

According to Reporters Without Borders, in 2019, Ecuador placed 97 out of 180 countries ranked by the level of press freedom (with number one being the country which affords the most freedom for journalists). The U.S placed 48.

The memorial aims to increase public understanding of the importance of a free press and First Amendment rights.

Even though the tribute will only display the names of the journalist and photojournalist, the family of Efraín Segarra shares Rivas’ feelings and is happy with the acknowledgment.

“It gave us another reason to keep fighting for the truth,” they said. “It’s an invitation for journalists to claim their rights. We have been fighting for truth, justice and for this to never happen again. Journalists deserve to be  able to do their job without fear.”

Every year, the Newseum selects a representative group of journalists whose deaths represent the dangers faced by journalists around the world. Javier Ortega and Paul Rivas’ names will be added to those of 2,323 journalists — dating back to the 1800s — who died in pursuit of the news.

Gene Policinski, president of the Freedom Forum Institute, said it’s a symbol representing the perils faced by journalists every day around the world.

“The memorial and this annual rededication event remind us all, every day, that the world is an increasingly dangerous place for those who gather and report the news.”

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