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Colombian journalists detained by Venezuelan police

(FLIP/IFEX) - 17 July 2010 - On 16 July 2010, three Colombian journalists were detained by Venezuelan police while they were covering a news story in the town of El Nula, in Apure state, Venezuela, approximately 20 kilometres from the Colombian border. They were detained because they allegedly did not have the required documentation to be in Venezuela.

Journalist Phillip Moreno and camera operator Milton Uscátegui, correspondents for Noticias RCN in the border state of Arauca, and Paola Osorio, a reporter from the station Sarare Stéreo, were reporting in El Nula when they were confronted by Venezuelan police officers, who demanded to see their identity cards. The journalists presented their press credentials, but they were detained because they did not have entry permits. However, border agreements between the two countries permit travel within 20 kilometres of the border without passports or visas.

Henry Colmenares, a local official for the town of Arauca, told FLIP that the journalists were within an area in Venezuela that they could enter without documentation. El Nula is located approximately 20 kilometres from the Arauca River, which is the boundary between the two countries.

The news director of Noticias RCN, Clara Elvira Ospina, told FLIP that the reporters were doing a story on National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla leader Carlos Marín Guarín, who was supposedly in El Nula and whose presence was recently denounced by the Colombian Minister of Defence. Ospina said that her journalists have never needed to request visas and entry permits to cover these types of events because of the free movement agreements in the border region.

According to information that FLIP received, the journalists were transferred to a military base at Puerto Soyaruro. They were later transferred to Caracas, where they were expected to be handed over to the Colombian embassy.

On 17 July, the journalists were in touch with their families and Sarare Stéreo. They said that they had been treated well and were waiting to be released.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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