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Journalists in Venezuela assaulted during protests over food shortages

People shout at Venezuelan National Guards during riots for food in Caracas, Venezuela, June 2, 2016
People shout at Venezuelan National Guards during riots for food in Caracas, Venezuela, June 2, 2016

REUTERS/Marco Bello

The following is an excerpted translation of an statement that was originally published on ipysvenezuela.org on 3 June 2016.

IPYS Venezuela rejects the attacks against 19 reporters while covering a food-related protest in the vicinity of the Fuerzas Armadas Avenue in downtown Caracas.

These events breach the provisions of a joint statement issued by the Inter American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) and the United Nations (UN) in September 2013, urging the member states to guarantee that journalists and social communicators are not arrested, threatened, assaulted or hindered while fulfilling their duties of covering the news during social protests. Likewise, it is instructed that the tools and materials of journalists should not be destroyed or confiscated by public order authorities.

A protest took place on the morning of Thursday June 2, 2016 in the vicinity of the Fuerzas Armadas Avenue, in downtown Caracas, where persons were standing in long lines to buy food and basic necessities.

According to several testimonials, persons who were there were getting flustered when representatives of community councils -government-sponsored
popular organization units- tried to deviate a truck loaded with food to one of the Comités Locales de Abastecimiento y Producción (Local Supply and Production Committees or CLAP for its acronyms in Spanish). Some persons were complaining due to the lack of food and others demanded the activation
of the recall referendum against Nicolás Maduro, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, according to media reports.

This happened three weeks after president Maduro ordered the restructuring of the food distribution system with the motto: “Todo el poder para los CLAP” (in English, "All the Power for the CLAP") announced during an official speech and later legalized through state of exception and economic emergency decree which was enacted on May 13.

State security officials, national guards and national police forces went to the area to control the situation. They used tear gas to disperse the protestors. Soon after, armed civilians arrived and began to assault and attack the journalists, cameramen, graphic reporters and drivers.

The affected persons were Andrea Cedeño, William Ríos, Felipe Martínez and Amanda Sánchez of Vivo Play digital web platform; Deivis Ramírez, Pablo
Pupo, Luis Morillo and Adolfo Acosta of El Universal printed media; Oriana Vielma, reporter for El Pitazo, Reynaldo Mozo and Vanessa Moreno, reporters
for Efecto Cocuyo; Raúl Romero, of El Nacional; Irene Mejías and Felipe Romero, of Caraota Digital; Francisco Bruzco, of Diario 2001; Nicole Kolster, of NTN24; Mabel Sarmientos and Miguel González, of Crónica Uno, and Giovanni Martínez, of Diario La Voz.

In front of officials from the National Bolivarian Police force (PNB), a state security corps, the reporter crew of Vivo Play, comprising journalist Andrea Cedeño, graphic reporter William Ríos, and the driver working for the media, Felipe Martínez, were harassed by armed civilians who took away their equipment, as Cedeño told IPYS Venezuela.

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