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Venezuela29 September 2008

Shooting attack against regional daily’s outspoken columnist

Reporters Without Borders calls for a thorough investigation into a shooting attack in which newspaper columnist Eliécer Calzadilla was seriously injured in Ciudad Bolívar, in the eastern state Bolívar, on 27 September. Calzadilla, who writes for the Correo del Caroní, a regional daily based in the nearby city of Puerto Ordaz, is no longer in a critical condition.

“Although Calzadilla seems to have been the target of an attempted contract killing, there is not yet any evidence that the motive was political,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is however already clear that the motive was not robbery and allowing this shooting to go unpunished would probably encourage journalists to censor themselves for their own protection.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We therefore urge the Bolívar state authorities to lose no time in carrying out a proper investigation. Bringing Calzadilla’s would-be killers to justice would help to defuse the high degree of tension that exists at the nation level between President Hugo Chávez’s government and the privately-owned press (see 25 September release).”

Calzadilla, 56, and his wife were returning to their car after visiting a cinema on the evening of 27 September when two gunmen opened fire and then fled on a motorcycle. One of the shots hit Calzadilla in the back of his neck, severing a vertebra. Rushed to a hospital intensive care unit, he is now out of danger but will probably have to undergo an operation to remove the bullet.

Calzadilla managed to dictate his weekly column to his daughter from his hospital bed. In the column, which was published yesterday, he said the gunmen clearly intended to kill him as they did not say a word and did not try to rob anything from him or his wife. His colleagues, including the newspaper’s editor, David Natera Febles, believe he was the target of an attempted contract killing.

A lawyer by training and a contributor to the Correo del Caroní for more than 20 years, Calzadilla often criticises corruption and government abuses in Bolívar state in his columns. The Correo del Caroní is itself also very critical of the government and has received threats in the past.

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