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TV journalist in Venezuela fired after getting gag order from station

On July 10, 2014, the general production manager of DAT TV, a private TV station based in Carabobo, in the central region of the country, notified reporter Hecmiry Lugo that they would no longer be needing her services at the regional TV station after the journalist notified her superiors that she would make public the gag order she received when interviewing opposition congresswoman María Corina Machado. The political leader had been the previous day at a citizens' assembly which took place in Valencia, the state's capital city.

Hecmiry Lugo told IPYS-Venezuela that on Wednesday, July 9 she set up an interview with members of political leader María Corina Machado's team for Thursday 10 at 12:30 midday. The journalist, who did special projects for the channel, would conduct the interview for a show called “Dos visiones, un país” ("Two Visions, One Nation"), which aired on Sunday nights.

Lugo explained that as soon as she set up the meeting with Machado's team, she coordinated the interview with the channel's producers. Strangely, five minutes later she was notified that there was no staff available at midday to do the taping. Although the interview was later changed for Thursday at 11 am, she was told once again that it could not be done that day.

On Thursday, the journalist found out, through Machado's staff, that they had been denied an interview in the morning news edition.

Afterwards, Lugo had a meeting with the editor-in-chief and the channel's producer, who informed her that the gag order came from top management, so as to avoid interviewing personalities with radical opinions. Lugo replied, asking if, in light of this, she could not interview politicians such as Diosdado Cabello (Speaker of the National Assembly) either.

After the meeting, the journalist considered the idea of resigning from the channel, but as a member of the National College of Journalists, Carabobo section (CNP Carabobo) she could not remain silent in the face of this incident and permit another opinion space to be closed in the nation.

For this reason, Lugo proposed that she could continue to work at DAT TV, so long as she publicly denounced the gag order against interviewing congresswoman Machado. The response she received from the general production manager was that they had decided to let her go and that there was already a replacement for her.

Journalist Hecmiry Lugo considers herself a victim of censorship, which she feels is all the more terrible because she is so passionate about her job. “As a colleague, we must bear in mind that there is an ethical code. Today it was my turn and tomorrow it could be you”, she asserted.

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