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Three media outlets accused of inciting violence, social destabilization; journalists assaulted in Mérida

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 9 November 2007, Globovisión television station was accused of inciting the public to commit violence through their coverage of the violent acts against journalists and students during a 7 November march against the constitutional reform. The accusation was filed at the Public Prosecutor's Office by a member of Venezuela's United Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV), Adán Navas, and several pro-government students of the School of Social Work of Venezuela's Central University (Universidad Central, UCV).

On 8 November, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Cilia Flores, had accused Globovisión, the newspaper "El Nacional" and CNN of promoting social destabilization by referring in their reports to the violent acts and protests during the 11 April 2002 attempted coup against President Hugo Chávez.

As well, pro-government National Assembly member Iris Varela threatened to organize a protest against Globovisión, accusing it of inciting the public to take justice in their own hands. She asked the National Assembly to approve an investigation by the Ministry of Communication into who promotes the propaganda about the constitutional reform appearing in these media outlets.

Also, the National Assembly declared the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) persona non grata, on the occasion of its proposed visit to the country.

The constitutional reform will be voted on in a national referendum on 2 December and has provoked marches for and against it due to, among other issues, its proposal to eliminate the provisions that currently prevent presidents from running for re-election. These marches have been the settings of several attacks on journalists attempting to cover them.

On 7 November, photographer Eduardo Molina, of the "Frontera" newspaper in Mérida State, was beaten up by police as they repelled a demonstration against the constitutional reform. The demonstration had been organized by students of Universidad de Los Andes (ULA) and other citizens. Molina told IPYS that a number of anti-riot policemen threw themselves at him with the apparent intention of snatching his camera. When he resisted he was beaten. Molina will file a complaint against the assailants at Mérida police headquarters.

On 9 November, Elvis Rivas, reporter and camera operator for RCTV Internacional television station, and Jesús Torres, photographer for the newspaper "Cambio de Siglo", were beaten and stripped of their working equipment by police who were repelling a march organized by ULA students against the constitutional reform. Rivas was taping a civilian and four policemen who had been wounded when an unidentified person approached him and demanded that he stop taping. Three policemen then hit him with their shields, took his camera and threw it onto a nearby lot of land. The reporter later recovered it.

Torres says that four anti-riot policemen stripped him of his camera and handed it over to a man dressed in civilian clothing who, a few minutes earlier, had attempted to snatch the reporters equipment. The policemen also beat the reporter in order to force him to leave the protest march. The reporters were both aided by firemen. They sustained minor injuries.

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