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Journalist refuses to quit, is forcefully removed from newspaper premises in Venezuela

On October 1, 2014, security officials of Grupo Últimas Noticias (Grupo ÚN) forcefully removed journalist Odell López, the ÚN political correspondent, from the media conglomerate's facilities after refusing to quit her job last September 30, when the HR department asked her to resign.

After this incident, the journalist went to the public prosecutor's office on October 2, 2014 to file a complaint. Based on an article published on the National Syndicate of Press Workers (SNTP) website, the journalist said that the directors of the editorial group coerced her into resigning from Últimas Noticias newspaper.

Journalist persuaded to resign

On September 29, 2014, López was informed that the newspaper's directors had asked for her resignation, and in the HR department she was asked to sign a letter of resignation. The journalist said that the incident that set this in motion was the support she offered Hernán Lugo Galicia, an El Nacional journalist, when on Friday September 25, he was heckled by Diosdado Cabello, president of the national assembly, on his program “Con el mazo dando”, aired on Venezolana de Televisión (VTV).

Odell López told IPYS Venezuela that she received verbal notice from the Últimas Noticias head of human resources, urging her to resign for reasons as yet unknown. She also stated that the order for her to quit presumably came from the top management of the editorial group.

López recalled that in the morning of Monday September 29 she was reporting for the newspaper. However, when she got back to the editorial office she learned that her section boss had received the order to not publish information drafted by the journalist.

She considers that the motives for this request to resign are not due to her journalistic work but may be possibly related to her stance as an advocate for freedom of press in light of censorship denounced at the newspaper and other printed products of the media corporation after its sale in October 2013.

In August 2014, López told IPYS Venezuela that the director of Últimas Noticias, Eleazar Díaz Rangel, decided not to publish a journalistic investigation on July 22 entitled “Reclamation of the Guayana Essequibo is a no go”. López, said that the director had said that the text went “against the government” and that it focused on the opinion of opposition leaders.

A possible motive

According to her testimony, something which could have made the directors uncomfortable was the support she gave through her personal Twitter account to Hernán Lugo Galicia, an El Nacional journalist. Off the record, the journalist had requested a debate between Cabello and Lugo Galicia to determine who is playing a role as media destabilizer, based on Cabello's statements.

As a professional, Odell López has remained active in defending the labour rights of employees at the paper, and also as an advocate promoting freedom of expression in the nation.

This incident is an attempt at an indirect and arbitrary dismissal which breaches the presidential firing freeze decree and the right in articles 57 and 58 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on freedom of expression and all citizens' right to information.

It also violates the firing freeze decree, which protects workers in the public and private sectors, set forth in official gazette N° 40310 dated December 6, 2013, as per Presidential Decree 639.

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