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IAPA condemns series of threats, attacks on journalists and media

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, June 6, 2012 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed concern at threats and attacks on journalists and news media in Venezuela in recent weeks. It urged the South American country's authorities “to identify and prosecute those responsible” as “the only way” to prevent further violence.

Earlier this week a team of journalists from the Caracas newspaper El Universal, including María Isoliett Iglesias, Deivis Ramírez, Tomás Ramírez González and Luis García, filed a formal complaint with the Public Prosecutor's Office demanding protection and guarantees after receiving threats following their coverage of a jail riot that highlighted problems in the prison system.

The Venezuelan Attorney General's Office ordered protection for the journalists who had written a series of special reports for El Universal on internal conditions in prisons, as a result of the events at the La Planta jail in the downtown Caracas neighborhood of El Paraíso, where in late April prisoners staged a two-week-long riot, in which nine persons died.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, expressed satisfaction at “the action taken by the Attorney General's Office” and declared that “what is needed now is to identify and prosecute those responsible, to prevent threats turning into attacks and violence.” He added that the protection measures should be extended to all journalists under attack.

The IAPA also condemned attacks on May 24 against journalists belonging to the National Public Media System (SNMP), and other members of the press harassed during their coverage of the electoral campaign of opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.

In another development, Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, condemned at an attack on Sunday against the newspaper Versión Final in Zulia state, in the far northeast of Venezuela. Unidentified persons riding in a vehicle shot up the front of the newspaper's building at least seven times, although there were no reports of injuries.

Also in Zulia, on May 28 an explosive device was hurled at the plant of the Maracaibo newspaper Qué Pasa. The attack caused minor damage to the building's façade. Two days later armed assailants opened fire on the studios of the regional television channel Catatumbo TV. According to local media the building was hit by 14 bullets. There were no reports of injuries in either of these two incidents.

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