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Venezuelan journalist subpoenaed, accused of post-election violence

On July 4, 2013, the office of the government attorney subpoenaed journalist Nelson Bocaranda, director of the news portal and host of the program "La Cola Feliz", broadcast on Éxitos 99.9 FM, a radio station owned by Unión Radio, as a witness to appear at court on account of violent events which happened after the April 14 presidential elections. At the same time, national assembly congressman Pedro Carreño accused Bocaranda of being the "intellectual author" of the violent events which took place nationwide expressing discontent with the election results. This took place in Caracas.

Nelson Bocaranda told IPYS-Venezuela that the subpoena issued by the office of the government attorney was sent to his home in Caracas, to appear as part of the investigation into the post-elections violence which ensued in April. He stated that the writ arrived at his home after the attorney general of the republic, Luisa Ortega Díaz, announced it on her Twitter account @Lortegadiaz.

("Citizen Nelson Bocaranda has been subpoenaed to appear next week at the national court No. 48")

In his Twitter account @PedroCarreno_e, Carreño replied to the information broadcast by the attorney general of the republic and added that the subpoena to Bocaranda named him as the "intellectual author".

Some hours prior to this, the attorney general of the republic held a meeting with the mixed committee of the national assembly - of which Pedro Carreño is a member - to broach the topic of the investigations on the post-election violenence, in which (based on the official data) 9 persons died and 107 were injured. At the meeting, Ortega Díaz said that in the following days the office of the government attorney would issue subpoenas, charges and accusations and measures to detain certain citizens realted to the case.

The attorney general's subpoena to Bocaranda was for July 9, 2013, but the journalist was out of the country and could not appear on that date due to issues with airplane tickets. He stated that as soon as he could buy a ticket he would come to Caracas to give his statement regarding this situation.

Since the date of the subpoena, Bocaranda has not hosted the program "La Cola Feliz" which he usually co-hosts with Mariela Celis on Éxitos 99.9 FM, broadcast nationwide.

Based on the records kept by IPYS-Venezuela, on April 16, 2013, Pedro Carreño, parliamentary congressman for the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), the ruling party, announced that he would request at the office of the government attorney the freezing of the accounts and seizing of the property of Bocaranda after the communicator published in his Twitter account a message on the alleged presence of voting boxes containing votes from past presidential elections.

"I have been informed that at the CDI (Comprehensive Diagnostic Centre, in English) of La Paz in Gallo Verde, Maracaibo, there are hidden election boxes and the Cubans who run the place are not allowing them to be taken out", said the tweet published by Bocaranda. The journalist was referring to an alleged irregularity in the April 14 elections material. CDIs are healthcare centers which are a part of the healthcare mission called Barrio Adentro, promoted by the national government, where doctors who come from Cuba work.

Criminal actions
Along the same lines, two journalists in Mérida state have been subjected to criminal actions for broadcasting information on citizen protests rejecting the April 14 election results which occurred in that state. After a threat from governor Alexis Ramírez, Horacio Contreras, host of the program "Titulares de la Prensa¨ broadcast by Studio FM 102.7 FM and Leo León, a reporter at ULA FM 107.7 and correspondent of El Nacional newspaper, were the subjects of criminal investigations.

The official version
In a publication entitled "Víctimas de la arrechera: La violencia fascista en Venezuela del 15 al 19 de abril de 2013" (loosely translated as "Victims of Anger: Fascist violence in Venezuela from April 15 to 19, 2013"), published by the Ministry of Communication and Information in June 2013, it was noted that supposedly Bocaranda's tweet "was the spark" that started the alleged attacks on the healthcare centers in the network of comprehensive diagnostic centers.

The text said that "During the violent events staged by Venezuelan ultra-right wing groups, 35 healthcare centers of the Misión Barrio Adentro were under siege and attacked with stones and fire bombs".

Threats of legal actions
In light of these statements, the subpoena issued by the office of the government attorney represents a threat of legal action against the journalist, which could become a criminal investigation. These judiciary measures run counter to international standards on freedom of expression and information.

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