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Journalists threatened by strikers in Anzoátegui; reporters José Belisario and Juan José Sayago assaulted after football match

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 29 January 2009, unionized workers from the Mitsubishi Motor Company (MMC) harassed and threatened journalists from several media outlets, accusing them of providing biased coverage of a strike they are carrying out against the company. The MMC headquarters are located in the city of Barcelona, in the State of Anzoátegui, northeastern Venezuela.

The affected journalists were: Lizardo Aguilar and Marlon Guzmán, an editor and photographer for the "El Tiempo" newspaper, respectively; Aymara Alfonso, a reporter for Anzoátegui TV; Enler García, a reporter for RCTV Internacional; and Carlos Alberto Figueroa, a reporter for Globovisión.

The journalists were threatened after a confrontation between police and the union members, which resulted in the death of two of the strikers. The strikers had taken over the company's facilities.

Photographer Daniel Olivares, of "El Tiempo", was also beaten by workers at the Barcelona morgue when he attempted to photograph the body of one of the dead workers.

In addition, on 30 January, reporter Katy Jurado and photographer Arturo Ramírez, also of "El Tiempo", and journalist Neulys Sandoval, of the "Nueva Prensa de Oriente" newspaper, were forced by the strikers to leave the MMC headquarters, where the union leaders were holding a press conference. The journalists were harassed and escorted to their vehicles.

On 3 February, the strikers, who were on their way to the city's court buildings, once again threatened the press, especially journalists who work for "El Tiempo", demanding that they leave. All of the media workers decided to leave the area.

After the above incidents, the "El Tiempo", "Nueva Prensa de Oriente" and "El Norte" newspapers and the TVO, RCTV Internacional and Globovisión television stations decided to refrain from sending their reporters to cover the strikers' actions. Coverage of the events is being conducted by telephone or by resorting to other sources.

In a separate incident, on 6 February, Telesur cameraman José Belisario and Televisora Venezolana Social (TEVES) journalist Juan José Sayago were assaulted by managers of the Venezuelan national football team after a match between Argentina and Venezuela in the Puerto de la Cruz stadium, in Anzoátegui.

The journalists were in the tunnel that leads from the changing rooms to the football field waiting to film the Venezuelan players.

Before Belisario turned on his camera, Daniel and Luis Farías, who are brothers and managers of the Venezuelan team, rushed at him in an attempt to seize the camera. They then struck him in the face. Sayago attempted to defend his colleague but he was also hit.

Sayago told IPYS that, at the time of the incident, they were neither filming nor broadcasting live.

Belisario filed a complaint with the authorities.

Rafael Esquivel Melo, the president of the Venezuelan Football Federation, gave assurances that he would take full responsibility for the actions against the reporters but was, at the same time, critical of the reporters' presence in the tunnel.

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