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Venezuela26 April 2006

On-duty policeman charged in news photographer’s murder

A Caracas police officer, Charly Briceño, has been charged in connection with the 5 April murder of El Mundo photographer Jorge Aguirre. While on duty, he allegedly drove the motorcycle on which the accused gunman, former policeman Boris Blanco Arcia, was riding when he shot Aguirre. Caracas prosecutor Cristian Quijada has charged him with covering up a criminal act.

Meanwhile Blanco, who is being held at the headquarters of the Directorate for Intelligence Services and Prevention (DISIP), has been charged with murder and posing as a police officer.

14.04.06 - Former policeman arrested for the murder of El Mundo photographer Jorge Aguirre

Attorney-general Isaías Rodríguez announced yesterday that Boris Blanco Arcia, 33, a former Caracas police officer who was dismissed last October, has been arrested for the murder of El Mundo photographer Jorge Aguirre, who was gunned down in Caracas on 5 April. Blanco was detained after a search of his home turned up pistol cartridges that matched those found at the scene of the shooting. Investigators have not yet found the murder weapon or established the motive.

06.04.06 - Photographer murdered apparently by a police officer during a demonstration

Reporters Without Borders expressed outrage after the murder on 5 April 2006 in Caracas, of Jorge Aguirre, photographer on the daily El Mundo. The journalist was gunned down by a man on a motorcycle dressed as a police officer during a demonstration against insecurity after the murder of three youths.

“The press is in its turn paying a high price for the climate of violence exemplified by the recent cases of kidnapping and murder, sometimes implicating the police,” said the press freedom organisation.

“Even if it is not yet known whether Jorge Aguirre’s killer was a member of the security forces, we hope that the investigation will also probe their ranks,” said Reporters Without Borders, which welcomed reform of the police promised by the government.

“Nearly four years after the unresolved murder of another photographer, Jorge Tortoza, this murder should not go unpunished,” it added.

The sons of a Lebanese-born Canadian businessman living in Venezuela, Bryan, 17, Kevin,13 and Jason Faddoul, 12, and their chauffeur Miguel Rivas were abducted on the outskirts of Caracas on 23 February. After making an exorbitant ransom demand the kidnappers murdered the three boys and their chauffeur. The case prompted a public outcry and angry demonstrations across the country. The state prosecutor-general, Isaías Rodríguez, told a press conference on 5 April that the investigation would also probe possible police involvement.

On the same day, Jorge Aguirre, driven by his chauffeur Julio Canelón in a car bearing the logo of the daily El Mundo, arrived to cover the renovation of a stadium close to the scene of the demonstration. His press vehicle was intercepted by a man dressed as a police officer, whose motorbike had no number plates. Since the policeman did not identify himself the driver did not stop.

Aguirre then got out of the car to take some photos. The uniformed man turned back and opened fire, shooting at the journalist three times, hitting him in the upper body. As he fell to the ground, Aguirre managed to take a picture of his (JPEG) fleeing killer (photo). He was taken to the nearby university hospital, where he died of his injury shortly afterwards. Staff of press group Cadena Capriles, which owns El Mundo, were planning to rally at the offices of the Prosecutor-general on 6 April.

Around 30 people are currently held hostage for ransom by kidnappers in Venezuela. On 28 March, Italian-Venezuelan Filippo Sindoni, owner of the local daily El Aragüeño and the channel TVS, was abducted and murdered in Maracay, west of Caracas. There too the investigation is focusing on the implication of regional police.

In this country
29 May - Venezuela
Open letter to President Hugo Chavez to protest about official hounding of Globovisión
20 February - Venezuela
Former policeman arrested on suspicion of participating in journalist’s murder
13 February - Venezuela
Constitutional vote held in climate of polarised media and surfeit of presidential speeches
15 January - Venezuela
Murder attempt against pro-Chávez journalist in Portuguesa state
2 January - Venezuela
New Year’s Day attack on TV station by radical pro-Chávez group

in the annual report
Venezuela - Annual Report 2008
Venezuela - Annual report 2007
Venezuela - Annual report 2006

14 March 2008 - Cuba
No surrender by independent journalists, five years on from “black spring”
5 June 2007 - Venezuela
Closure of Radio Caracas Televisión consolidates media hegemony
22 May 2007 - Colombia
Paramilitary "black eagles" poised to swoop down on press

Americas press releases
3 June - United States
President Obama urged to raise freedom of expression in his Cairo speech
27 May - Mexico
Crime reporter abducted and killed in Durango state
20 May - Cuba
Anyone can browse the Internet... unless they are Cuban
15 May - Cuba
Journalist gets three-year jail sentence
15 May - Colombia
Former intelligence officials leak list of news media and journalists whose phones were tapped

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