The public prosecutor’s office announced yesterday that it has ordered a judge specialised in fundamental rights, Cecilia Riera Cristancho, to investigate the detention of El Nacional reporter Dimas Medina, who was arrested as he was about to catch a plane on 25 July in the western city of Barinas and was held for several hours.
Riera will reportedly interview Medina and the police who detained him.
A Barinas state judge, Edgardo Sánchez, has also been ordered to investigate the confiscation by the police of a public police report from Medina. The report, about a burglary at the home of a nephew of President Hugo Chávez, was given to Medina by a lawyer, Ormar Arévalo.
The investigations were ordered in response to a complaint brought by Medina accusing the authorities of detaining him arbitrarily.
29.07.2008- Harassment and attacks on journalists with information that could embarrass officials
Reporters Without Borders is concerned about an increase in violence and harassment of journalists by public officials. In the two latest cases, a La Verdad reporter and photographer were attacked by municipal employees in Maracaibo while reporting on waste pollution on 23 July while police detained an El Nacional reporter in Barinas on 25 July, confiscating a report listing valuables stolen from a nephew of President Hugo Chávez.
“Unfortunately, these cases are not isolated,” Reporters Without Borders said. “In order to be free, the press must not be subjected to any external pressure, especially political pressure. It is one of the jobs of the press to cover fraud and crime, even when a government or its representatives are involved. The authorities should ensure that these cases are properly investigated.”
Dayana Fernández, a reporter with the daily La Verdad, and her photographer Luis Torres, were invited by municipal environment secretary Joemel Robles to cover an “important operation” on 23 July to remove waste from a city dump in Maracaibo (in the northwestern state of Zulia) to a place outside the city.
They noticed on arriving that, while some municipal employees were removing waste, others were continuing to dump there. After they took photos of this, municipal security guards told them they would not be allowed to leave until they deleted they photos. When they refused, some 80 municipal employees threatened them and their driver, surrounded their vehicle, climbed on the roof and slashed their tyres.
Dimas Medina of the daily El Nacional reported that he was detained by members of the DISIP political police at the airport of Barinas (in the northwestern state of Barinas) on 25 July because he had a copy of a police report about a robbery at the home of Cléber Chávez, a nephew of the president. The police interrogated him at the airport, confiscated the report, which he had obtained from a lawyer, and transferred him to the Barinas regional police headquarters before releasing him.
Medina thinks the authorities wanted to prevent publication of the list of items stolen from Cléber Chavez’s home - which included jewels, other luxury goods and 10,000 dollars in cash - and prevent any link being made with corruption allegations that have been levelled against officials in the state, which is governed by Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, the president’s father.