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Venezuelan journalist on hunger strike over government "abuse of power"

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed solidarity with Venezuelan journalist Leoncenis García of the newspaper 6to Poder, on a hunger strike in protest at what he calls “abuse of power” by the state National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel).

García, president and publisher of the 6to Poder Group, who has been staging his hunger strike since Saturday (June 8) outside the Caracas offices of the Organization of American States (OAS), is seeking to draw attention to an official strategy to strengthen a government-related communications hegemony.

With signs of ailing health García said he will continue his hunger strike to the bitter end, it being a question of non-transferable rights and principles. He explained that “Atel TV television channel was going to change into Sexta Visión so as to bring together journalists from RCTV (whose signal was suspended in 2007), but the channel was shut down before the purchasing contract was effected.”

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, declared, “We send our full support for García, a colleague and IAPA member, who in spite of putting his physical wellbeing at risk is exercising his right to freedom of expression.”

García was forcefully arrested on Thursday last week (June 6) by National Guard officers outside the Conatel offices, where he had begun his protest at the arbitrary suspension last month of the signal of Atel TV, which 6to Poder was arranging to purchase.

On May 21 Conatel forced several companies providing cable television service to take off the air the signal of Atel TV, which was negotiating 6to Poder's purchase of its shares. The IAPA condemned the Conatel action, calling it “a violation of freedom of expression and an act of coercion and censorship.”

García's lawyer, Pedro Aranguren, told the press that his client “will not cease his hunger strike until Conatel restores the Atel TV signal on the cable TV grid.”

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