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Journalists followed by military intelligence officers; radio station takes programmes off the air to avoid being shut down

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 4 February 2010, journalists Doricer Alvarado and Atamaica Briceño, correspondents for Globovisión and RCTV Internacional in the city of Barquisimeto, in central Venezuela, reported that for several weeks they had been followed during their working hours by members of the Military Intelligence Department (DGIM).

Briceño said that when she realized they were being followed, she asked her camera operator to film their pursuer. When she watched the video, she noticed that he carried a card identifying him as a member of the Armed Forces' intelligence unit. She stated that this same person had also followed her on a previous day.

Alvarado said she had also noticed that two DGIM officers were following her, one of whom she had met at the XIII Infantry Brigade a year earlier, when her camera operator was detained after filming images of Venezuelan heroes wearing gags that had been painted on the walls of a military building as a protest against attacks on freedom of expression.

The journalists stated that they feel intimidated and are taking extra precautions with regards to their personal safety.

In a separate incident, on 27 January, Vladimir Pabón, the owner of the Dinámica 102.1 FM radio station, decided to take the programmes "Un Nuevo Tiempo Contigo" and "Conversando con los barrios" off the air after finding out that the station is on a list of media outlets that the National Telecommunications Commision (CONATEL) is threatening to shut down. The incident took place in the state of Barinas, in western Venezuela.

The programmes' host and producer, César Cadenas, who is also a member of the Un Nuevo Tiempo opposition party, participated in the decision-making. His programmes had a social slant and focused on the public's complaints against the local authorities' administration.

Dinámica 102.1 FM was informed of the situation by Ender Cesareo Ovalles, the owner of the Ríos 95.3 FM radio station, which closed down following orders issued by the Minister for Public Works and Housing and director of CONATEL, Diosdado Cabello. Ovalles approached CONATEL to clear up the situation regarding his radio station and was shown a list of other stations that would be closed down, which included Dinámica 102.1 FM among them.

IPYS rejects all measures that negatively affect freedom of expression in Venezuela.

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