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Government supporters assault photojournalist Cecilia Rodríguez; political party leader threatens journalist Beatriz Adrián

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 20 January 2009, Cecilia Rodríguez, a photojournalist for the "El Nuevo País" newspaper, was assaulted while she was covering a rally involving supporters of the pro-government Venezuelan Popular Unity (Unidad Popular Venezolana, UPV) political party, along with members of the group known as "La Piedrita". The rally was in support of a constitutional amendment to allow for the re-election of Venezuela's president and other public officials on an indefinite basis. A referendum on the proposed amendment is scheduled for 15 February. The incident took place in Plaza Morelos, Caracas.

Rodríguez told IPYS that she was taking photographs of the rally when she was surrounded by a dozen Chávez supporters wearing vests with the UPV logo. One of them grabbed her press card, while others struck her in the face and searched through her purse.

Metropolitan Police and National Guard officers as well as officials from the Ombudsman's Office were present at the gathering. Although a police officer helped Rodríguez get away from her assailants, the authorities failed to punish any of the individuals involved in the assault.

In a separate incident, on 19 January, Globovisión television station journalist Beatriz Adrián said that she had been threatened by Lina Ron, the leader of the UPV, during a press conference called by Ron and the mayor of Caracas, Jorge Rodríguez, who is a member of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV).

The conference was planned as part as a campaign coordinated by the two political groups to support the approval of the constitutional amendment on the indefinite re-election of the country's president.

Adrián told IPYS that, after the conference, Ron approached her and said, "don't meddle with Cilia anymore or you'll see what happens", referring to National Assembly President Cilia Flores.

Adrián covers the Legislative Assembly for Globovisión. During the last few months, she and other journalists have said that their work has been hindered by parliamentary officials. As a result of their complaints, Flores and other members of parliament who are affiliated with the ruling party have attempted to discredit them.

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