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Photojournalist gets pepper spray in his face while documenting arrest in Venezuela

On May 8, 2014, Horacio Siciliano, a photojournalist with Reporte Confidencial - a digital media outlet - was assaulted by a National Bolivarian Police officer (PNB), when he was trying to cover the arrest of a young man in the vicinity of Francisco de Miranda avenue, to the east of the city of Caracas, the nation's capital. Siciliano said that the young man was taken into custody by the police officers while he was watching the officers removing garbage from a barricade.

Siciliano told IPYS-Venezuela that he had just arrived at Francisco de Miranda Avenue on a motorcycle when National Bolivarian police officers were picking up trash from a “barricade” that was an obstacle for vehicles in that area. It is worthwhile mentioning that since early on May 8 several barricades were erected in various sectors of the east of Caracas, as a way to protest the detention of a group of university students in the early morning of that Thursday in Chacao municipality.

Siciliano explained that PNB officials proceeded to arrest several young men who were just looking at them picking up the trash. He said that one of the young men held on tightly to a handrail and yelled at the reporter that he was not doing anything wrong, when the police decided to take him into custody.

The reporter said that the young man held on for three minutes while the police officers beat him with their elbows to pry him away, while one of them sprayed pepper gas on the people who were shouting slogans against the state security corps. He also recalled that at that point in time, another photojournalist attempted to take photos of the incident and the pepper spray just missed him.

Siciliano started to take photos of what was happening and the policeman sprayed him in the face and his camera lens with a device he had hooked onto his belt buckle.

A few seconds later, Siciliano approached this police officer and admonished him for assaulting him while doing his job and told him that he still felt the sting of the pepper spray on his face.

The reporter admitted that he felt outraged at the response he received from the policeman, who told him not to worry because the stinging feeling would soon pass.

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Between May-Sept 2016, 21 journalists were either assaulted or unlawfully detained by police in #Zimbabwe