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RCTV television station crew threatened in Cúa; photojournalist briefly detained in Lara

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 18 July 2008, two unidentified individuals riding a motorcycle threatened a RCTV Internacional television station crew by firing nine gunshots into the air. At the time of the incident, the crew was gathering footage for RCTV's "A Puerta Cerrada" ("Behind Closed Doors") programme on a complaint by a group of local residents about the lack of public services in their community in the Quebrada sector of the city of Cúa, 60 kilometres from Caracas.

The journalists told IPYS that the motorcycle's passenger had covered his face with a bandana and was wearing a red hat with a phrase on it referring to President Hugo Chávez. After firing the gunshots, the two individuals fled the scene.

According to RCTV Internacional's information chief, María Isabel Arriga, the scare tactic was aimed at stopping the community members' complaints from being broadcast.

The television crew consisted of reporter Laura Castellanos, camera operator Wilson Chacón, camera assistant Michel Echegarai and producers Álvaro Algarro and Marian Carvajal.

In a separate incident, on 19 July photographer Jairo Nieto, of "El Impulso" newspaper, was detained for 45 minutes by six officers from the National Guard's Anti-Extortion and Anti-Kidnapping Division (Grupo Antiextorsión y Antisecuestro, GAES). At the time of the incident Nieto was taking photographs of three GAES officers accused by the Public Prosecutor of being involved in the disappearance of a farmer. The officers' case was being heard by a Lara state criminal court (Tribunal de Control del Circuito Judicial Penal) at the judiciary's headquarters.

Two GAES officers detained Nieto when they saw him taking pictures. They pushed him into a van where four other officers tried to handcuff him, as well as take his camera from him and erase the photographs of the hearing.

Nieto was freed shortly after he managed to contact his supervisor, journalist Juan Bautista Salas, who telephoned the officers' superior, General Luis Bohórquez.

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