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Media outlets prevented from entering courts; police attempt to detain city councillor after he expresses his opinion regarding corruption allegations

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 22 July 2009, Caracas Criminal Court president Venicce Blanco barred personnel from both private and state-run media outlets from entering the courthouse headquarters.

Mayela León, a reporter for Globovisión, said that they were informed that this measure would be in place "until further notice."

This the third time in 2009 that media outlets have been barred from entering the courthouse buildings. The first time was on 20 April, when the hearing of a case involving the former mayor of Maracaibo, Manuela Rosales, was about to begin. The second took place on 17 July, when the head of Globovisión, Guillermo Zuloaga, was to appear in court to answer to an accusation that one of his companies was monopolising the market. In the most recent instance, journalists were planning to cover a second hearing into the case involving Zuloaga.

In a separate incident on 21 July, approximately thirty police officers arrived at the headquarters of the Playera 101.9 FM radio station to arrest opposition city councillor and the coordinator of the Justice First (Primero Justicia) party, Emilio Guzmán. The incident took place after Guzmán expressed his opinion on his "Claro y Raspao" programme about an accusation of alleged corruption within the Puerto Píritu police department in the province of Peñalver, in Anzoátegui State, northeastern Venezuela.

According to Guzmán, the police officers wanted to take him to their headquarters to speak to police commissioner Daniel Silva. He believes they were attempting to intimidate him because he had spoken about the corruption allegations on his programme.

He said the police officers did not have an arrest warrant or subpoena issued either by the Prosecutor's Office or by a court, so he refused to leave the station's headquarters. The police officers remained outside the radio station for two hours.

Guzmán filed an accusation of police harassment with both the Prosecutor's Office and the Anzoátegui State Police Department.

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