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Two journalists assaulted by municipal employees in Maracaibo; reporter briefly detained by police in Barinas

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is concerned about an increase in violence against and harassment of journalists by public officials. In the two latest cases, a "La Verdad" reporter and photographer were attacked on 23 July 2008 by municipal employees in Maracaibo while reporting on waste pollution; meanwhile, police detained an "El Nacional" reporter in Barinas on 25 July, confiscating a report in his possession that listed valuables stolen from a nephew of President Hugo Chávez.

"Unfortunately, these cases are not isolated," RSF said. "In order to be free, the press must not be subjected to any external pressure, especially political pressure. It is one of the jobs of the press to cover fraud and crime, even when a government or its representatives are involved. The authorities should ensure that these cases are properly investigated."

Dayana Fernández, a reporter with the daily "La Verdad", and her photographer Luis Torres, were invited by municipal environment secretary Joemel Robles to cover an "important operation" on 23 July to remove waste from a city dump in Maracaibo (in the northwestern state of Zulia) to a place outside the city.

They noticed on arriving that, while some municipal employees were removing waste, others were continuing to dump there. After they took photos of this, municipal security guards told them they would not be allowed to leave until they deleted the photos. When they refused, some 80 municipal employees threatened them and their driver, surrounded their vehicle, climbed on the roof and slashed their tires.

Dimas Medina of the daily "El Nacional" reported that he was detained by members of the DISIP political police at the airport of Barinas (in the northwestern state of Barinas) on 25 July because he had a copy of a police report about a robbery at the home of Cléber Chávez, a nephew of the president. The police interrogated him at the airport, confiscated the report, which he had obtained from a lawyer, and transferred him to the Barinas regional police headquarters before releasing him.

Medina thinks the authorities wanted to prevent publication of the list of items stolen from Chavez's home - which included jewels, other luxury goods and US$10,000 in cash - and prevent any link being made with corruption allegations that have been levelled against officials in the state, which is governed by Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, the president's father.

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Mueren tres defensores de derechos indígenas en Oaxaca, en un ataque armado https://t.co/NkKoImSQFy @cencos… https://t.co/GnVgJc74JX