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NEWSPAPER EXECUTIVE GUNNED DOWN

The vice-president of a Venezuelan newspaper whose senior staff had received more than 50 death threats in the past year was gunned down last week, report the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS) and other IFEX members.

Pierre Fould Gerges, vice-president of the Caracas daily "Reporte Diario de la Economía", was shot at least a dozen times by gunmen on a motorcycle on 2 June. Nothing was taken from him during the attack outside a Caracas gas station.

The possible motives remain unclear, but the victim's brother Tannous Fould Gerges is the newspaper's president and he, along with several other senior staff members, had reported receiving threats since June 2007. According to IPYS, the threats followed the newspaper's tough stance on alleged corruption in the state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela. Other journalists at the paper have been tried for defamation or detained for reporting on the same case.

Police said Pierre had been driving his brother's car when he was killed, raising the possibility his killer confused him with the newspaper's president.

IPYS is asking for appeals to be sent to the Public Prosecutor and to the police, urging them to investigate the crime until the murderers and the motive are identified, and to take measures to protect the newspaper's staff. See: http://www.ipys.org/alertas/atentado.php?id=1501 for contact details.

Deadly violence against the press is rare in Venezuela, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Four journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work since 1992, the most recent in 2006. More frequently, the local press has been subjected to repressive government measures, while reporters and photographers have been attacked during street protests.

Visit these links:
- IPYS: http://www.ipys.org/alertas/atentado.php?id=1501
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/3h5t6o
- Inter American Press Association: http://tinyurl.com/55ro34
- Reporters Without Borders: http://tinyurl.com/3sfstd
(10 June 2008)

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