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Journalist from mayor's office assaulted by government party supporters

On December 8, 2016, Euro Lobo, the head of press for the mayor's office of Mérida, was physically assaulted by 30 persons identified as members of the Bolívar-Chávez battle unit (UBCh), who kicked him and beat him with sticks when he was covering news of a political activity in Arias parish in Mérida state, in the nation's Andean region.

Euro Lobo told IPYS Venezuela that he was ambushed at one of the entrances to the community, together with the mayor of the city of Mérida, Carlos García, and the team of the Instituto Municipal de la Vivienda (Municipal Housing Institute), when they were completing an activity at the Arias parish. “These persons surrounded the mayor's vehicle and I went to a police office to request backup."

The journalist alerted 10 officers who came in a police patrol car and two motorcycles, but their action was not sufficient to control the assault by the people who chased Lobo's vehicle, in which there were management documents, personal property and work equipment, and a second vehicle that the mayor was being transported in. “We managed to help the mayor escape through a tunnel nearby”, he said.

Around 30 persons identified as members of the Bolívar-Chávez battle unit, some on board motorcycles and others wearing hoods, reached Lobo's vehicle, forced him to get out and made him stay flat on the floor. Then they began to beat him. “These persons knew what parts of the body to hit. They did not touch my head or face but they did beat me on the torso. I lost consciousness twice”, he recalled. During the assault, the journalist was stripped of his car keys.

The journalist assured IPYS-Venezuela that a man who called himself the leader of the UBCh forced him to kneel with his back to him and aimed something at him that looked like a gun. The man asked Lobo to hand in his wallet and began to check his documents. Although the journalist had money in the wallet and other personal documents the man only saw the credential certifying him as a member of the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP).

“This is the journalist who talks badly about the UBCh!”, he said and returned Lobo his wallet, put him in his vehicle and drove him to the entrance of the community, where several people threatened to set him on fire. The car's windows were smashed and the upholstery was torn, apparently with an axe.

Inside the vehicle were two computers, two digital cameras, 16 extractable memory cards and portable cell phone batteries.

Minutes later the police officers evacuated Lobo through the same tunnel where the mayor had left. The vehicle was also rescued. Euro Lobo was evaluated by a specialist doctor who determined that he had no serious lesions.

The journalist said that on the morning of Friday December 9 he would publicly denounce what had happened via a press conference.

Carlos García, the mayor of Mérida, reported the assault on Twitter and put responsibility of the assault on “hooligans protected” by Alexis Ramírez, the governor of Mérida state.

This alert on freedom of expression represents a physical assault and an attack against the property and professional equipment of a journalist by pro-official party supporters.

The right to freedom of expression and the right to information are consecrated in articles 57 and 58 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which set forth that every person has a right to free plural and uncensored communication.

Numeral 5 of the OAS Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression sets forth that prior censorship and any direct and indirect pressure on any expression, information or opinion through the media must be forbidden by law. Numeral 9 sets forth that any assault, threat or intimidation againt social communicators violate the fundamental rights of persons and severely hinder freedom of expression.

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