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Journalists threatened after reporting on public's complaints; pro-Chávez group threatens to publicise journalists' personal information

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 28 May 2009, journalists Tarquino González Concho and Briceida Morales Alburjas received threatening text messages and phone calls while they were hosting the "Los Periodistas" programme, broadcast on Sensacional 94.7 FM radio station, in the state of Barinas.

Earlier that week, the programme had received a number of calls from people who complained that one of the city's main avenues had been closed down as part of the celebrations for the 10th Anniversary of the National Armed Forces' 93rd Special Security Brigade. The journalists were commenting on the complaints when González received a text message that said: "shut up, don't be a tattle-tale, stop the fuss".

Later, a man who identified himself as a lieutenant colonel but would not give his name, called the journalists' cell phone and demanded that they stop talking about the issue.

In a separate incident, on 21 May, "La Piedrita", a group that organises political activities in favor of the government in the 23 de Enero neighborhood in Caracas, issued a communiqué threatening to publicise personal information of journalists and private media owners if those institutions in charge of administering justice do not punish them.

According to the statement, the personal information would be publicised as a response to alleged threats and attacks against leaders of President Chávez's party, which started after the media published personal information about officials close to Chávez, such as their home address, telephone numbers, names of their children's schools, and office address.

The communiqué, signed by Valentín Santana, calls on the Ministry of Communication and Information (MINCI), the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) and the National Tax Administration Service (SENIAT), to sanction the private media, especially Globovisión, which they refer to as being "in support of a coup and murderous."

In 2008, members of "La Piedrita" used teargas canisters to target the headquarters of several media outlets and the homes of journalists who are critical of Hugo Chávez's administration.

IPYS condemned these types of intimidating tactics against the press.

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