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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Colombia arrests news correspondent

BOGOTA, Colombia - A reporter for news channel Telesur, majority owned by the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez, was arrested in Bogota on charges of terrorism and rebellion, authorities said Monday.

Fredy Munoz, a Colombian national, was taken into custody at the capital's airport after arriving on a flight from Caracas Sunday, said a statement by the Department of Administrative Security, or DAS, the Colombian equivalent of the

The arrest warrant was issued by a prosecutor on Nov. 10 for charges of terrorism and rebellion relating to a series of bombings along the Caribbean coast in 2002. No one was killed in the attacks. No further details were given.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as the FARC, was blamed for a number of attacks across the coastline in 2002.

"This type of accusation undoubtedly surprises us. We think this is an attack against freedom of the press, against the right to information," Andres Izarra, Telesur president, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "We are analyzing our legal options for the defense of Fredy Munoz' rights".

Chavez, whose government supports the Caracas-based Telesur, has touted the news channel as an alternative to what he calls the Washington-friendly coverage of other large media outlets.

The Venezuelan government holds a 51 percent stake in Telesur, with Argentina owning 20 percent, Cuba 14 percent, Uruguay 10 percent and Bolivia 5 percent, the station says.

Chavez' critics in Colombia have expressed concern the station would tilt its coverage toward the country's leftist rebels and against the right-wing government of President Alvaro Uribe.

"I want to point out that ever since Telesur was born, the biggest attacks against us have come from Colombia. We see this as one more attack," Izarra said.
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