Ecuador's free speech advocacy group Fundamedios has been sent photographs from Colombia allegedly showing the bodies of the three journalists kidnapped on the border last month, but the images have yet to be officially verified and there is as yet no evidence that the trio has been murdered.
The group posted on Twitter late Thursday that it had "received photographs from a Colombia media outlet related to the situation of the kidnapped journalistic team. We have made the authorities and the families aware and we are waiting for any official confirmation."
Hours later, Ecuadorean Interior Minister Cesar Navas appeared on television to say that there has been no official confirmation of the deaths and that more news is expected in the coming hours.
"We have no confirmation that the Ecuadorean citizens are dead," he said, noting that the photographs are still being examined.
Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno returned to Ecuador's capital, Quito, late Thursday night, making an early departure from the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru to deal with the situation.
Shortly after touching down, President Moreno addressed the assembled crowd of media and relatives of the missing three, and gave the captors 12 hours to reveal the location of their hostages.
"I give 12 hours to these criminals to give proof that they have our compatriots," a visibly shaken Moreno told journalists. "We have demanded action by the Colombian government. We will defeat these criminals."
Colombian media outlets are reporting that the photos show the dead bodies of the three journalists kidnapped on the border between Colombia and Ecuador on March 26 in the town of Mataje.
The unverified reports came a day after a statement allegedly by Frente Olive Sinisterra, which claimed the three El Comercio staff it kidnapped last month have been killed. Both reports have yet to be confirmed.
Journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas and driver Efrain Segarra were kidnapped in Ecuador's northern border in Esmeraldas while reporting on a series of violent attacks against Ecuadorean security forces.