BOGOTA, May 8 (Xinhua) -- The Colombian government on Tuesday rejected any demands made by the country's main guerrilla force in exchange for the release of captive French journalist Romeo Langlois.
Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said that the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) "can by no means impose any type of conditions to handover Langlois."
Langlois was captured by the rebels on April 28 when an army unit he was with clashed with the FARC group.
"The national government cannot get into a discussion with criminals, and that is a position I am sure the country understands and agrees with," said Pinzon during an event in Bogota presenting new police recruits.
On Monday, the FARC called for "a broad-ranging national and international debate on freedom of information" before it would liberate the correspondent for French news channel France 24 and the daily Le Figaro. The rebels claim reporters embedded in military operations fail to report objectively.
Langlois was reportedly wearing a helmet and flak jacket when the army unit he was riding with on an anti-narcotics operation in the Caqueta province exchanged fire with rebels. Army soldiers said he removed his protective gear and walked toward the rebels when he was shot in the arm, presumably to identify himself as a civilian. The rebels have been holding him since, saying he is a "prisoner of war."
"What they have to do is to release him immediately and urgently," Defense Minister Pinzon, saying Langlois is a civilian and should not be labeled a prisoner of war.
In its Monday statement, the FARC claimed that "the journalists Colombia's armed forces take along on military operations do not fulfill the objective of reporting the facts impartially, but of manipulating them so they can be used in the war against the Colombian people."
"Freedom of thought, expression and information cannot work solely for the benefit of landowners and the owners of capital," the FARC said, adding, "our web page is permanently attacked and blocked, our broadcasting stations destroyed by bombs."
Both the Colombian and French authorities are continuing their efforts to press the rebels for Langlois' release.