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Journalists manhandled in separate incidents by Colombian senator's bodyguards and sympathisers of political party

(IPYS/IFEX) - Journalists were manhandled or assaulted in two separate incidents on 1 and 6 August.

On 1 August 2008, RCTV International television station journalist Jessica Flores and "El Carabobeño" newspaper photographer Frederick Mills were hit by Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba's security guard when they were attempting to cover her unexpected visit to the National Electoral Council (CNE), Venezuela's electoral body.

Flores told IPYS that she was attacked by a bodyguard when she attempted to approach the senator to ask her for the motive of her visit.

Mills told IPYS that one of the senator's security guards also pushed him and that Córdoba's driver opened the car door, hitting him on the arm.

IPYS protests against these acts of violence that hinder the work of the press.

In a separate incident, on 6 August Telellano television station journalist Carlos Sulbarán and his camera operator Carlos Moya, as well as reporter Aida Charitin and photographer Iván León, of the newspaper "De Frente", were attacked and insulted by supporters of Venezuela's United Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Unido, PSUV) in the state of Barinas, southern Venezuela.

Sulbarán told IPYS that they were pushed and slapped around. Moya's camera lens was covered to prevent him from continuing to tape and Charitin's tape recorder and cell phone were thrown to the floor.

The acts of aggression took place when the journalists were covering a press conference in which the candidates to the government of the State of Barinas and to the Regional Legislative Council were being presented. The nomination of some names aroused the dissatisfaction of a group of PSUV followers who were angry that their candidates had been left out. Some protesters forced their way into the premises and caused all sorts of mayhem in front of the journalists.

Ninoska Grima, head of the government-run Regional Information Office, told Sulbarán not to videotape the mayhem. At the same time, PSUV security personnel threatened to attack Moya if he continued to tape. They also told him that they had photographs of him and that all they had do now was to find out where he lived.

Once their work was finished, Sulbarán and his camera operator went back to the television station only to be told that Ms. Grima had phoned the president of Telellano forbidding that they show any images of what happened. The images were not broadcast.

As a consequence of these incidents, Sulbarán requested that he never again be assigned to cover events involving the PSUV.

IPYS condemns these acts of aggression and this act of censorship by a government official, both of which violate journalists' right to do their jobs and citizens' right to be informed.

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