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Venezuelan journalist Braulio Jatar arrested in wake of massive protests

This statement was originally published on sipiapa.org on 6 September 2016.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today called for the release from detention of Venezuelan journalist Braulio Jatar, director of the portal Reporte Confidencial (Confidential Report), on Margarita Island and it joined a request to the authorities that his safety and access to due process be guaranteed.

Jatar, 58, was arrested on Saturday (September 3) by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) and accused of money laundering, an offense that carries with it punishment of 10 to 15 years in prison. The charge maintains that there was found in his vehicle a briefcase containing $25,000 and 19,000 bolivars (equivalent to some $1,900).

However, his family called the arrest a retaliation against Jatar and an act of intimidation for his having disseminated information and videos on his portal about a local protest last Friday (featuring banging on pots and pans) against President Nicolás Maduro.

IAPA President Pierre Manigault called on the Venezuelan authorities for "guarantees for his physical safety" and demanded that "there be compliance with the constitutional principle of respect for freedom of the press, the mobility and activity of journalists."

Manigault, president of the Charleston, South Carolina, newspaper The Post and Courier, recalled that last week, within the framework of the September 1 anti-government protest, the IAPA condemned the government for impeding the practice of journalism and he blamed it for the deterioration in freedom of the press and of expression.

Jatar, who is also a lawyer, denied through his legal defense attorney having had the money at the time of his arrest. His lawyer called the arrest an ambush and disclosed that the official report indicates that Jatar would use this money to hand it over to "opposition groups to destabilize the upcoming Summit of Non-Aligned Countries" scheduled for September 13-18.

In another development the IAPA also called for the release of Alejandro Puglia, a journalist and director of the Office of Monitoring and Evaluation of the Presidency of the National Assembly, arrested by the Sebin on September 1 for using a drone to take photos of the protest that day in Caracas, and charged with the offense of "warlike assistance."

Despite the fact that the Public Prosecutor's Office requested his release Puglia continues under arrest after a female judge charged him with the "warlike assistance" offense, punishable under the Penal Code by five to 10 years in prison. While there existed an administrative prohibition on using a drone during the protests current legislation does not characterize this as a crime, so Puglia's situation, as was expressed by the National Journalists Guild (CNP) "remains at the discretion of the Venezuelan government."

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