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Venezuela7 August 2002

New attacks against journalists

There have been further threats and attacks against journalists during street demonstrations by supporters of President Hugo Chávez. The latest incidents occurred on 2 August, when municipal police tried to disperse crowds of Chávez supporters who were blocking Avenue Sucre in Catia and the 23 de enero working-class district in Caracas.

Among the journalists threatened were Elianta Quintero, José Tarache and Juan Méndez of Venevisión, Noé Pernía, César Sánchez and Wilmer Villasmil of the RCTV station, El Universal photographer Paulo Pérez Zambrano, El Nacional photographer Alejandro Delgado Cisneros and Andry Lara, a photographer with La Voz de Guarenas, a provincial daily.

A Televen TV crew consisting of Johann Merchán, cameraman Orlando Chong and Chong’s assistant, Johnny Verdú was pursued by government supporters and forced to hide. They were finally able to give their attackers the slip by disguising themselves. Later, when they were covering clashes between demonstrators and police, a municipal police officer took their camera from them and confiscated their film.

President Chávez again berated the news media in his weekly televised address "Aló Presidente" two days later, on 4 August, calling them "liars" and claiming they only reported what is going badly in Venezuela.

On 5 August, Reporters Without Borders had called for enquiries into the attacks against some 15 journalists during clashes between government supporters and opponents in front of the Supreme Court between 30 July and 1 August.

05.08.2002 - Reporters without borders calls for inquiries into attacks on several journalists

Reporters without borders has expressed concern over the attacks against several journalists during confrontations between government supporters and opponents in front of the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo de Justicia) in Caracas from 30 July to 1 August 2002. In a letter to Interior and Justice Minister Diosdado Cabello, the organisation asked for the launch of inquiries into these attacks. "These events demonstrate that the press situation in Venezuela remains very difficult, despite the beginning of dialogue between the government and opposition," stated Reporters without borders Secretary-General Robert Ménard. "Those responsible must be identified and tried," he added, noting that supporters of President Hugo Chavez are implicated in these recent incidents. In addition, Reporters without borders asked the government to guarantee the security of journalists, in accordance with directives from the Organisation of American States (OAS).

According to information gathered by Reporters without borders, on 30 July, Ray Avilés of the television programme 24 horas, broadcast on the Venevisión network, was threatened by alleged supporters of President Chávez. The same day, eggs and other objects were thrown at radio journalist Yadiris Adrián.

On 31 July, Gabriel Osorio, a photographer for the weekly "Primicia", was attacked. Alleged government supporters, who accused him of being a CIA agent, hit him, injuring his left hand, and stole his equipment. Moreover, at approximately 2:00 pm (local time), a tear-gas grenade was thrown at the Globovisión network’s headquarters. On 9 July, a grenade was also thrown at the network’s premises (see IFEX alert of 10 July 2002).

On 1 August, Paulo Perez Zambrano, a photographer for the daily "El Universal", and several other photographers and camera operators were attacked by Chávez supporters, the Associated Press reported. According to the daily "El Nacional", a police officer reportedly seized the camera and three roles of film belonging to photographer Alejandro Delgado Cisneros. During the confrontations, vehicles from Venevisión, RCTV and Globovisión were damaged.

image 125 x 110 (JPEG)   These incidents took place while government supporters and opponents were demonstrating in front of the Supreme Court, which, on 30 July, began examining the possibility of trying for rebellion the former military officers involved in the 11 April coup d’état.

On 29 July, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) extended for six months the precautionary measures, adopted on 30 January, in favour of the Globovisión and RCTV networks. The IACHR asked the Venezuelan authorities to guarantee the security of journalists and to carry through to completion all the investigations into acts of intimidation and violence against media professionals.

In this country
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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
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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
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