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Venezuela6 December 2002

Twelve journalists assaulted or wounded during demonstrations

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the fact that a total of 12 journalists were the victims of violence on 3 and 4 December while covering opposition demonstrations that took place during a general strike aimed at forcing President Hugo Chávez from office.

As the police have been implicated in this violence, the organisation called on interior and justice minister Diosdado Cabello to order an internal police enquiry with the aim of identifying and punishing those responsible. "Tolerating impunity is no different from being an accomplice to the crime," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said.

The organisation also called on the government to issue "clear instructions" to both the police and its supporters that journalists should be treated with respect when they reporting events.

Presumed supporters of President Chávez attacked eight journalists on 4 December while they were covering a demonstration in the city of Barquisimeto, in the central-west state of Lara, in which there were clashes between government supporters and opponents

José Rodríguez of the daily El Impulso daily was hospitalised with concussion. A missile hit Martín Urteaga of the El Informador newspaper in the leg. Miguel López of Telecentro, Clara Reverol and Gustavo Escalona of the Televen television network, Cristián Rodríguez of Promar TV, Yliana Brett of the daily Diario Hoy and Julio Torres de Venevisión television network were also attacked. Demonstrators accused them of being "traitors" and "biassed" in their news coverage. The daily El Nacional reported that police were present but did not intervene.

Fernando Malavé of the daily Diario 2001 and José Antonio Dávila of CMT were shot at with rubber bullets while covering an opposition demonstration on 3 December in Caracas. One, fired at close range, went through Malavé’s bullet-proof vest and wounded him in the chest. He was taken immediately to a hospital where he is now out of danger. Dávila, who was seriously injured during the events of 11 April, was again wounded, this time in the neck and chest.

Luis Alfonso Fernández of Venevisión and Aymar Lorenzo of Globovisión were hit by police who, like the demonstrators, attacked journalists. These incidents took place as the demonstrators were being dispersed, and the journalists were trying to obtain reactions from the police on the day’s events.

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