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Military officials threaten reporters covering story at prison in Venezuela

On November 24, 2014, Edickson Durán and Abraham Palencia, photojournalists with El Impulso and La Prensa newspapers, and Tomás Gaona, the cameraman for Promar Televisión, received death threats from a National Bolivarian Guard official (GNB in Spanish), while covering events at the David Viloria Penitentiary Center, better known as the Uribana jail.

Beginning in the morning, there were face-offs at the jail and some inmates were injured, a situation which got complicated in the afternoon in the presence of family members who wanted to know about the health status of their family members who are imprisoned.

Family members and police officials confronted each other with stones and tear gas, incidents that were captured by the three reporters who received death threats.

“A military officer beat and warned the photojournalist, and took his camera's digital memory card, which had photos of the conflict between the military and prisoners' family members”, according to information published on the newspaper's website.

Edickson Durán commented that at first they asked him to show them his photos, and after he did so, a “first lieutenant” arrived, who took the memory card from his camera and warned him: “If tomorrow any photo comes out in the newspaper, I will send you to heaven”.

The same situation took place with his colleagues. In the case of Gaona, the cameraman from Promar Televisión, his camera disk was taken away from him.

All of the people assaulted explained that their work was in informing the public and they had to do their job, but the military personnel refused to acknowledge this and hindered their ability to do their work as journalists, which is guaranteed in Venezuelan legislation.

The La Prensa website also had information saying that all the reporters are in good health and were able to recover their memory cards.

A similar incident. Jail security officials –working for the ministry for penitentiary services- acting as internal custodians at the central-western penitentiary center snatched equipment and eliminated all the photos taken by photojournalists Elías Rodríguez, Leandro Torres and Luis Iturriaga of the private regional newspapers El Impulso, El Informador and El Mío, respectively, on January 27, 2013.

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