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Police officer assaults camera operator in Zulia state; radio journalist assaulted in Caracas

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 6 November 2009, Igor Balboa and Lucía Urdaneta, camera operator and reporter, respectively,for the Rafael Urdaneta University television station, Urbe Televisión, were assaulted by a police officer.

The incident occurred in the cultural center of San Francisco Municipality, Zulia state, western Venezuela. Members of the Community Councils - civic organisations that work towards the generation of public policies and the solution of conflicts impacting on communities - entered into a confrontation with members of the cultural center, just minutes before an event was due to begin.

Balboa said he was filming a group of people who were throwing stones when a municipal policeman approached him and demanded that he stop. When the camera operator refused, the police officer began to hit him. The assault was recorded in a videotape broadcast by the regional television station. The police officer in question was identified as one Harrison Andrade.

Jesús Vergara, the journalists' attorney, demanded that the police officer and his superiors face disciplinary action.

The mayor of San Francisco, Omar Prieto, acknowledged that the municipal police officer had overreacted and announced that those responsible would be reprimanded.

Nikary Gonzáles, Secretary General of the Zulia Journalists' Association, said that out of the five attacks on the press that took place in Zulia in 2009, three occurred in the San Francisco Municipality.

In a separate incident, on 18 November, Luis Araujo, a journalist for Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV), was assaulted by security personnel who prevented him from approaching the dean of Venezuela's Central University (Universidad Central de Venezuela, UCV), Cecilia García Arocha. The dean was issuing a statement during a march against violence organised by the University Council, in Caracas.

According to Araujo, he tried to approach García, in an area reserved for the press, when the dean's security personnel grabbed him by the arms and took him away forcefully. He was prevented from recording the dean's statement.

The demonstration took place inside the university's premises, to protest the violence that had plagued the campus in recent days.

IPYS condemned the incidents and the targeting of journalists while in the line of duty.

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