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National Police commander makes unwarranted accusations against journalist, endangering his safety

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 24 November 2007, General Óscar Naranjo, head of the national police, levelled accusations against Telesur international television station journalist William Parra which may put the journalist in danger.

The general accused Parra of promoting the idea that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Senator Piedad Córdoba were to be credited with negotiating the release, by the guerilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC), of kidnapped police captain Guillermo Solórzano in June 2007. Naranjo also accused the journalist of having harassed the Solórzano family and demanded that the journalist explain his relationship to the FARC.

The journalist, Telesur, and the Solórzano family all deny this version of events. Noemí Julio, mother of Guillermo Solórzano, said: "We have only words of thanks for William Parra''.

Regarding this incident, FLIP asserts, as it has done on prior occasions, that this type of declaration by a state official serves to stigmatise journalists. In this case, it is insinuated that Parra has close ties with the FARC, which puts him in personal danger.

It is unacceptable that journalists be accused of collusion with illegal armed groups merely because they use those groups as sources of journalistic information. In the performance of their work, journalists may legitimately consult sources that function outside the law. If the state knows of genuine crimes committed by any journalist, it should start formal investigations rather than disseminate rumours.

In recent months, Telesur employees have been the target of various stigmatising statements, they have been denied information from official sources, and they have been subjected to intimidation. As well as obstructing the free flow of information, these actions put journalists at personal risk - risk that is quite serious in the current political context.

It is very important that the Administrative Security Department (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, DAS) and the national police fulfil their duty to ensure the safety of Telesur employees. Above all, it is of vital importance that officials refrain from making declarations that put journalists at risk or that are likely to provoke attacks on them.

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