Dutch journalists tell harrowing tale after Colombia abduction; "We were very scared"

Poster of Colombian guerrilla movement ELN
Poster of Colombian guerrilla movement ELN. (Photo: Julián Ortega Martínez / Wikimedia Commons)

Spoorloos presenter Derk Bolt and cameraman Eugenio Follender were released by Colombian guerrilla movement ELN on Saturday, a week after the Dutch men were abducted. Minister Bert Koenders is "happy and relieved" that the Dutch journalists are now free, he said in a statement to NOS, thanking the Colombian authorities for their efforts in negotiating their release.

"This is very good news. I am very happy that the abduction ended so soon", the Minister said. He thanked everyone involved in the negotiations. "We've been in constant contact with the Colombians, who worked very hard on the release. I have a lot of appreciation and thanks for their contribution."

"This is a very beautiful moment, because we now stand free in front of you", Bolt said to the press in Cucuta on Saturday afternoon, according to the Volkskrant. "We were in serious danger. We had to fight for our lives when we fled into the jungle with the guerrillas from the army. We walked 10 to 18 hours a day. On gym shoes, in a shirt. Then you go into a survival mode. Surprisingly, we made it. Are you going to get through this? Will anyone ever see me again? These are not nice thoughts."

Follender added: "We were very scared. You have no idea how this will play out. You need mental strength for a period which you don't know how long it will last."

According to the journalists, they were taken into custody for filming in ELN territory - something the journalists weren't doing intentionally. "They were very suspicious. They took us into custody, and they took us to a house. There they held us for a day. The second day we had to go to another house. The third day they were so nervous about a possible intervention by the army that we had to flee into the jungle. Those who took us were very kind and treated us with much respect, almost like friends", Bolt said, according to the newspaper

The two Dutch men survived their ordeal with only "a few scratches on arms and legs from branches" to show for it. "Mentally we're also doing well", Bolt said. "We talked a lot with the guerrillas. They always said that our lives were not in danger. That we had to relax and that everything is going wel. And you want to believe that, of course."

It was clear from shortly after the abduction that the journalists weren't taken for ransom. Spoorloos editor-in-chief also confirmed that no ransom was paid. He also doesn't think that Spoorloos took unnecessary risks in the trip to Colombia. "They had incredibly bad luck", he said to the Volkskrant. Nevertheless, the program wll make other considerations in the future. "I had to promise the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that we will not make this kind of trip anymore. And there can be no misunderstanding, we will never do this again. We will never again step into a red area."