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Journalist's car blown up in Caracas following his resignation due to threats

(RSF/IFEX) - Journalist Roger Santodomingo's car mysteriously exploded and caught fire outside his Caracas home on 4 July 2007, just a few days after he resigned as editor of the news and opinion website Noticiero Digital because of threats to his seven-year-old son, Simón. The car was completely gutted by the fire.

Santodomingo has just asked the National Council for Children's Rights to protect his son following the threats against his son, which included a mysterious message inserted into his son's school performance report on 27 June calling Santodomingo a "traitor to his country." He told RSF he had received threatening phone calls and emails in recent weeks saying, for example, that his son "had been left on his own at school and could have problems crossing the road."

Santodomingo gave the threats as his reason for resigning during the week of 2 July as editor of Noticiero Digital, a popular website that is critical of President Hugo Chávez. Santodomingo has also been the target of attacks and smears from the government and the state-owned media

"Not content with pushing him to the limit and threatening his son, his most virulent detractors continue to persecute him even after he resigned," RSF said. "What are his assailants trying to achieve? The investigation should seek the answer to this question. In the meantime, young Simón Santodomingo should be granted the protection requested by his father. We appeal again to the authorities to rein in their most radical militants and to guarantee the safety of this journalist and his family."

A member of the Young Communists in his youth and a former Amnesty International activist, Santodomingo is now a well-known journalist who worked for the daily newspaper "Tal Cual", the television station Venevisión and the BBC before taking charge of the website.

"Noticiero Digital is a very popular media outlet that became even more popular after the RCTV affair, to the point of getting an average of 300,000 visitors," Santodomingo told RSF. "It has become a forum for comment that is virtually out of its own management's control because of its totally open nature."

Regarded as an opposition website, it has become one of the bugbears of the government and the governmental media. The site and Santodomingo have been regular targets on "La Hojilla", a propaganda programme on the public television station Venezolana de Televisión whose chief object is to undermine the reputations of opposition news media and journalists. Among the accusations made against Santodomingo was that of being a "CIA agent" for taking a trip to the United States seven years ago.

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