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Pro-government group tosses tear gas grenades into newspaper office

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 15 October 2008 IAPA press release:

IAPA protests attack on Venezuelan newspaper El Nuevo País and calls for a halt on pro-government militant assaults on media

Miami (October 15, 2008) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today protested an attack by Venezuelan government supporters who tossed teargas grenades into the El Nuevo País plant in revenge for the paper's critical editorial stance, labeling its editor a "military objective".

The attack was carried out yesterday afternoon by members of the pro-government La Piedrita group who threw two teargas grenades at employees in the Caracas newsroom and pressroom and delivered a communiqué declaring editor Rafael Poleo a "military objective".

"With no hesitation on our part, we declare Rafael Poleo a 'military objective'," read the group's words as it claimed responsibility for the act against the newspaper and justified it as a response to alleged statements by Poleo "calling for the assassination of Commander (Hugo) Chávez."

The President of IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, declared, "We alert the international community to pay attention to the increased number of attacks on journalists and news media in Venezuela and we call on the country's authorities to maintain calm and control their militants and activists so even more serious and regrettable incidents don't happen."

Rivard, of the Texas newspaper San Antonio Express-News, cited the resolution on Venezuela adopted by the IAPA's General Assembly held October 3-7 in Madrid, Spain, which condemned "the verbal violence by President Chávez against the Venezuelan independent news media and journalists, seen as a direct motivation for the threats and attacks on the part of public officials and activists."

In other actions attributed to the La Piedrita group, on October 10 militants shouted insults at a team from Globovisión TV covering a street demonstration in a Caracas district and attempted to steal reporters' notes. The incident was condemned by Communication Minister Andres Izarra, who called it "political childishness." Previously, on September 23, the same group had hurled teargas grenades at Globovisión headquarters and distributed pamphlets declaring the channel and its director, Alberto Federico Ravell, "an objective of war."

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