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Editor accused of inciting Chávez's murder in survey; journalists accused of receiving CIA money

IPYS/IFEX) - On 22 May 2007, Mario Silva, host of the state-owned television station Venezolana de Televisión's (VTV) opinion programme "La Hojilla", accused a group of journalists who have been critical of Hugo Chávez's government of receiving money from the American government in order to destabilize the State. The following day, the pro-government newspaper "Vea", stated that the journalists received money from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The accused reporters are: Aymara Lorenzo, Pedro Luis Flores, Ana Karina Villalba, María Fernanda Flores, vice-president of Globovisión; Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, a journalist and columnist for Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) television stations; and Roger Santodomingo, director of the webpage http://www.noticierodigital.com

On 25 May, Eva Golinger, an American lawyer of Venezuelan descent who is close to Chávez, showed several American government documents that stated that those journalists had received money in 2003 under specialization courses and cultural exchanges financed by several international cooperation agencies of the United States.

The accused journalists, however, told IPYS that they did not receive funding from the CIA. Villalba declared that she participated in a programme called "Investigative Journalism" and that her cultural exchange visa can be seen in her passport; Lorenzo participated in a program for international visitors about "The role of social communication media in democracy". Both of them were invited by the US government. Santodomingo maintained that between 2003 and 2005 he was a correspondent and producer for the BBC in the United States and that he did not participate in any workshops.

IPYS is concerned about the accusation as there is no evidence of links between international cooperation agencies and the CIA. Also, if there is an official investigation, it asks the authorities to be impartial.

In a separate development, on 28 May, the Minister of Communication and Information, Willian Lara, filed a suit with the Prosecutor General accusing the editor of the webpage http://www.noticierodigital.com , Santodomingo, of attempting to instigate the assassination of the president and of receiving funding from the US State Department to destabilize the government. The editor was notified and is expected to appear at the Prosecutor's office (Fiscalía de la Nación) on 14 June.

Santodomingo said that the investigation has been prompted by his publication of an opinion poll in which the option of assassinating President Hugo Chávez was offered as a possible response to the question: "What is the way out of this crisis?" The option received 30 percent of the votes.

Noticierodigital.com is a citizen's forum with 45,000 registered users who can upload information about the day's events to the webpage and debate them.

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