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Community radio station programme cancelled; police briefly detain photojournalist

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 20 October 2009, the "In Defence of the Right to Education" ("Pro-Defensa del Derecho a la Educación") radio programme was taken off the air without warning. The programme was broadcast by the Cielo 99.3 FM community radio station, which is based in Barcelona, the capital city of Anzoátegui state.

According to the programme's host, José Urbano, the president of the state legislative council, Deputy Irán Aguilera, pressured the station's director, Otman Olivero, to stop broadcasting the programme after it aired a sexual abuse complaint involving a teacher and student at one of the city's schools. Urbano, who is also the director of the NGO that goes by the same name as the radio programme, told IPYS that the teacher may be a relative of Aguilera's.

Urbano said that on 20 October he and other members of the NGO confronted Aguilera and demanded an explanation regarding his involvement in the closure of the programme. Aguilera replied that the programme promoted "counterrevolution, and that he would not allow that kind of information to be disseminated." The deputy threatened Urbano with a firearm and said he would assault him.

Urbano has filed a complaint with the both the Office of the Ombudsman and the Public Prosecutor's Office.

IPYS contacted Aguilera to inquire about the accusation against him, but the deputy said he knows nothing about the case.

In a separate incident, on 28 October, Larry Mejía, a photojournalist for the "Notitarde" newspaper, was detained by police after he refused to hand his camera over to them. The incident took place in the city of Maracay, Aragua state, in northern Venezuela.

Mejía was covering the arrest of two students who had been protesting against the poor structural condition of their classrooms at a university in Maracay. A police inspector gave orders to a police officer to seize Mejía's camera. A struggle ensued between the officer and the photojournalist during which Mejía refused to let go of his camera. He was subsequently taken in a squad car to the Caña de Azúcar police station.

Journalists from other media outlets contacted Aragua police force commanders and, as a result of their intervention, Mejía was eventually released.

IPYS condemns the harassment of the "Notitarde" reporter and calls for the police officers behind the actions against him to be punished.

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