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Photographer threatened while covering protest in Mérida; Chávez supporters insult journalists in Caracas

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 29 April 2009, Héctor Molina, a photographer for "Pico Bolívar" newspaper, was threatened by a group of hooded men affiliated with the Tupamaro Movement (an organisation that is linked to President Hugo Chávez's government), while he was covering a student protest in the city of Mérida, central Venezuela. The assailants took his camera.

The reporter was attempting to photograph burning tires when two armed men reprimanded him for being present at the scene, insulted him and threatened to shoot him in the head if he did not leave. Molina showed them his credentials and explained to the men that he was covering the event for the press, but they did not listen to him. They took his camera and forced him to leave.

Molina got in touch with the Tupamaro Movement's secretary general in Mérida, Irán Brito Matute, to request that his camera be returned to him. The leader did return it but all the photographs had been deleted.

In a separate development, on 27 April, a group of Chávez's supporters chased and insulted several private media journalists who were covering the visit of city councillors Freddy Guevara and Alejandro Vivas to the National Assembly. The councillors were presenting a letter to the assembly in which they requested the right to participate in the debate on the Metropolitan District Law on Funds Allocation.

The journalists targeted in the incident were: Beatriz Adrián, of Globovisión; Carla Salcedo Flores, of Venevisión; Carlos Eduardo Sánchez, of Televen; Desiree Parra, of Radio Caracas Radio; Jennifer Santana, of RCTV Internacional; Dennys Arenas and Jhorman Acosta, of RCTV Internacional and Cecilia Rodríguez, of the newspaper "El Nuevo País".

The journalists left the area to avoid further harassment.

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