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Reporter crew detained three hours at National Intelligence HQ in Venezuela

On February 20, 2015, a VerTVNoticas crew, which was covering the arrest of metropolitan mayor Antonio Ledezma, was detained for three hours at the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), located in Plaza Venezuela, after a state security official thought that journalist Gabriela Salcedo and cameraman Otniel Trocozo were taking photos of the military headquarters from inside their vehicle.

Journalist Gabriela Salcedo told IPYS Venezuela that the crew was heading to the Helicoide, one of the headquarters of the SEBIN located in La Rinconada, in Caracas, where, according to official sources, Antonio Ledezma was being held. However, this happened when the press crew circulated in front of state security headquarters. The journalist said that an official approached her while she was putting on makeup and notified her that it was forbidden to take photos in that spot since it was a security area.

Salcedo, who identified herself as a journalist, responded by saying that she was not taking photographs and showed him the pressed powder compact she was carrying in her hand. The official did not believe her and insisted on asking why she was there, and asked them for their identity cards. Realizing that they were a reporter crew, the official contacted his colleagues, who asked him to enter the SEBIN headquarters. The journalists waited inside their vehicle.

Some 30 minutes later, several SEBIN officials approached the vehicle. The officials' ID cards were obstructed so that their names could not be read). They asked for the car ownership papers and started to inspect them. Respectfully – in the words of the journalist - they were asked to enter the building to make a statement. They accepted. “We had nothing to hide, so we had no problem”, the reporter said.

The state security officials checked the media workers' camera, their cell phones, photos, agendas, a personal pen drive, and their emails. Afterwards, both were asked about their jobs, the media they work for, their presence in the area that day, and links to political players.

The interrogation lasted three hours. Although the reporters were permitted to make several phone contacts during their arrest, they could not complete the journalistic coverage expected for that day.

The officials argued that due to the political tension in the nation, any situation could be irregular and they had the right to take all pertinent measures.

This is the first case of arbitrary arrest registered by IPYS Venezuela in 2015.

This event is framed within an arbitrary arrest linked to the abusive use of the state´s power.

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