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Journalist dismissed after opposing censorship at television station

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 28 August 2008, journalist Mairim Unamo, information coordinator for Canal I television station's news programmes, was dismissed after she protested against the censoring of a news report. According to Unamo, the station's head of information services, Dámaso Silvera, prevented the broadcasting of a news item on one of the programmes she oversees, which caused them to have an argument.

After the discussion, Silvera went to see the station's president, Mari Pili Hernández. Unamo was fired twenty minutes later. The letter she received from the Human Resources Department states that the decision was taken by the station's management because of the "mistreatment of personnel".

The censored news item referred to accusations presented by a North American prosecutor before a Florida tribunal against Venezuelan citizens Franklin Durán and Alejandro Kauffman for allegedly bribing Venezuelan government officials and members of the armed forces. Details on the case, which is known as "the US$800,000 briefcase", were originally published by the Miami-based newspaper "El Nuevo Herald", and then widely distributed by the EFE news agency.

Unamo accused Silvera of threatening to fire two of the news programme's editors if they reported on the case when they were already editing the information. The journalist chastised Silvera for his attitude and attempted to convince him of the case's newsworthiness. She also offered to verify the information and contact "El Nuevo Herald"'s journalists.

Silvera assured IPYS that he had no role in the journalist's dismissal, adding that the television station operates independently.

Canal I is a private media outlet. However, its president has served as a vice-minister with Hugo Chávez's government and acted as head of the campaign in favour of the president staying in power during the 2004 recall referendum. The station owner is a businessman who has supported the government.

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