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Venezuelan reporter's van set on fire

On April 12, 2013, close to 11:15 pm, Lilia Giménez, a journalist at El Anaquense, a local privately-owned newspaper in Aragua de Barcelona municipality, Anzoátegui state, was the victim of an attack at her house, which she says is linked to the publication of reports by several communities on the management by government officials with the ruling party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV). A public official and member of the party also intimidated the journalist.

As told to IPYS-Venezuela, the journalist heard some noises outside her house located in Aragua de Barcelona. When she went outside, she realized that her van, parked outside the house, was on fire. Due to the lack of water in the area, there was not much she or her neighbors could do and the vehicle was totally consumed by the flames. Fortunately, nothing happened to her or her house.

A police commission from Aragua de Barcelona and a firefighter's unit from Anaco (a city that is 20 minutes away) arrived at the premises, but there was no longer anything they could do. The uniformed personnel collected information from the site to invesitigate the causes of the fire, and some neighbors stated they saw two men on motorbikes leaving that street, as well as a white car.

In the midst of the incident, a local public official approached the journalist and in an intimidatory manner told her: “You are going to be hit hard”. In Venezuelan jargon, that phrase can be interpreted as a threat of attack.

Giménez filed a complaint at the local headquarters of the Scientific, Penal and Criminalistic Investigations Corps (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas, CICPC), a state police intelligence corps, for forensic tests to be conducted, but so far no one has shown up. A sheriff of the CICPC offered her police custody but Giménez rejected it since she is sure that the municipal public powers and security organisms are “controlled by the official political party”.

Although she has no proof, the El Anaquense reporter said that this could have been a way to harass her or may be retaliation due to news published by the newspaper, where she referred to the arrest of two suspects allegedly linked to a murder in Aragua de Barcelona. The men apprehended are the sons of a a high-ranking PSUV member in the region, and although Giménez did not write the pieces, she did follow up on the case and it is probable that they tried to scare her away by burning her van.

“I think that my van was torched for political reasons. My journalistic work is objective, nevertheless my ideological tendency has always been critical towards the current
government”, the reporter with more than 30 years' experience, stated.

Faced with the lack of trust she feels towards the state's security bodies, Giménez opted for hiring private bodyguards for her and her residence.

“I tried to handle the situation with a low profile, because if this case has political nuances, I will never know the truth. All the public powers at Aragua de Barcelona are controlled by the PSUV”.

Journalist Lilia Giménez continues working at El Anaquense newspaper.

This situation jeopardizes the life and safety of the journalist, and is counter to the principles of freedom of expression and information set forth in the Constitution of the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela, which states that these rights must be enforced free from risks, threats and undue pressures.

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