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Students attack newspaper's vehicle; supporters of candidate for governor reprimand journalists for their reporting

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 18 November 2008, Santa María University students attacked a vehicle owned by "De Frente" newspaper, in the town of Barinas, southern Venezuela.

The demonstrators were protesting against kidnappings that have been taking place in the region, in particular the abduction of one of the university's students who was released after a ransom was paid.

Journalist Juan Carlos Rendón and photographer José Contreras managed to exit the vehicle after students threw stones at it and turned it over, then threatened to set it on fire with the journalists inside. University security personnel intervened to prevent a more serious level of violence from taking place.

The students accused the "De Frente" journalists of working for a pro-government media outlet. In response, Rendón said that he was not responsible for the newspaper's editorial line.

In a separate incident, journalists Carolina Hoyo, also of "De Frente", and Carlos Sulbarán, of the Telellano television station, said that they have received telephone calls from the campaign headquarters of Barinas gubernatorial candidate, Julio César Reyes, discrediting information they have reported. Reyes is also the mayor of the Municipality of Barinas. The press verified that the calls originated from Reyes' campaign headquarters.

On 21 October, Hoyo received a telephone call after publishing a report in "De Frente" in which a priest denied that Reyes had donated an image of the Virgin Mary to his parish. The official who phoned Hoyo demanded an explanation of what she had published.

Sulbarán, on the other hand, published the results of a survey taken among the area's population regarding a local fair for the Virgin of el Pilar, in which many people criticised the festivities. On 21 October, Sulabarán received a telephone call from one Reyes' campaign workers accusing him of having manipulated the opinions of those questioned for the survey.

IPYS rejects these types of actions and views them as an attempt to limit press freedom.

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