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Two journalists assaulted, one injured, in Barinas; Globovisión television station again harassed

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 8 November 2007, journalist Jorge Eliécer Patiño and photographer Luis Alberto Barrios, of the newspaper "El Diario de los Llanos", were attacked by members of the police's Special Operations Group (Grupo de Operaciones Especiales, GROES) when they were covering a protest march against the government's proposed constitutional reform by students of the Santa María University in the city of Barinas.

The policemen snatched Barrios's camera and broke one of his ribs with the butt of a handgun. Patiño suffered minor injuries. The policemen also took both journalists' credentials and kept them detained in a GROES vehicle until a police inspector returned the camera to them and ordered them to be taken to a nearby hospital.

During the last few weeks, an increasing number of journalists have been attacked while covering demonstrations for and against the constitutional reform that is to be voted on in a national referendum on 2 December. The proposal has created a stir because, among other things, it would result in presidents being allowed to run for reelection an indefinite number of terms.

In a separate development, on 15 November members of a Caracas group called the "Coordinadora Simón Bolívar" painted the front of Globovisión's headquarters with graffiti in favour of the constitutional reform. The television station opposes the government. In the graffiti the station was also accused of promoting a media-based campaign to destabilize the country. The group also set off fireworks outside the building, and delivered a document to Globovisión director Federico Ravel, in which they pledge their support for the constitutional reform, criticise the way in which the station covers the issue and accuse it of being a Central Intelligence Agency tool. The Metropolitan Police arrived at the station's headquarters when the group was leaving.

During the last few weeks, demonstrators have threatened and denounced Globovisión because of its editorial line. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has recommended that the Venezuelan state protect the station, noting that it has an obligation to guarantee the safety of the station and its employees.

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