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Journalist attacked, threatened in Mérida

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 26 March 2010, a group of men attacked Rolando Hurtado, a journalist based in the Libertador municipality, in the city of Mérida, western Venezuela. The journalist was covering a street protest against a traffic regulation issued by the mayor's office.

Hurtado reported that he was chased and beaten by about 20 men on motorbikes, who were allegedly linked to the ruling party, and who insulted him and threatened to kill him.

The journalist, together with the municipality's press team, accompanied mayor Léster Rodriguez, an opponent of the national government, as he left the CNB Merideña 95.3 FM radio station headquarters after broadcasting his program "Conversando con Léster" (Talking with Léster).

A group of motorcycle drivers surrounded the van that the mayor was about to board, protesting against the compulsory use of safety vests, a regulation put into place by the mayor's office that has been criticised by some drivers.

Hurtado photographed the scene and was chased by one of the men, who attempted to run him over. The reporter fled but was overtaken by other drivers, who beat him and demanded that he hand over a firearm that they believed he was carrying. He showed them his camera and microphone and denied that he was carrying a gun. One of the men said that he "was a dead man".

Hurtado filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Department (CICPC), who assured him they would launch an investigation.

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