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Violence Against Public Sector Journalists in Venezuela

Continued Violence Against Public Sector Journalists In Venezuela
by Paul Dobson 01/08/2012

Venezuela de Television (VTV) journalist Giovanina Guillén was the victim yet again of violence and abuse this week when she tried to report on the ‘house to house’ electoral campaign event for the opposition Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) in the sector Las Marcelas in the central state of Guárico.

At the event, which was led by right wing presidential hopeful Henry Capriles Radonski, the journalist reported that she was “beaten” and that there were attempts to take her camera and reporting equipment. Her recording equipment was damaged. Speaking via telephone link to the VTV studio, she stated that “they have damaged the camera again. This is the third camera which the followers of this candidate have damaged when we have tried to report on their events, for the third time we were assaulted, hit, and we didn’t have access to the interviews”.

Andrés Izarra, Minister for Communication and Information, condemned the attack via his twitter account: “New aggression against the reporting team of VTV whilst they covered the opposition campaign in Guárico. Journalists beaten and camera destroyed”.

Journalist Giovanina Guillén was twice previously the victim of violence by Capriles’ followers and bodyguards in May this year when she covered similar events. One such attack left her needing hospital attention, and prompted outcries from Chavez’s campaign manager Jorge Rodriguez, who deplored the “fascist bands” who accompany Capriles in his campaign activities.

The state TV channel VTV is one of the many means of communication which makes up the National Network of Public Means of Communication (SNMP), which have been the targets of a series of attacks in the past few month of electoral campaigning by Capriles’ team and followers. PSUV National Assembly member Tania Diaz describes these attacks as “continuous, systematic, and cowardly”.

On the 12^th March 2012, a journalist from Catatumbo TV, another member of the SNMP network, was grabbed and shoved when covering an event by Capriles in the opposition controlled Zulia State. On the 16^th March, Richard Mardo, elected member of the National Assembly for Capriles’ First Justice Party, grabbed VTV journalist Llanfrancys Colina by her hair and pulled her to the floor in the state of Aragua. On the 22^nd March, members of Avila TV, who also belong to the SNMP network, suffered acts of violence against them by supporters of Antonio Ledezma, opposition mayor for the center of Caracas, and on 23^rd March, VTV journalist Pedro Carvajalino was hit when covering a MUD event in the same sector. On the same 23^rd March, members of the VTV team covering an opposition event in the western state of Táchira were also attacked. On the 10^th May, VTV reporter Janeth Suarez was attacked when covering an opposition meeting of agricultural producers in the state of Barinas, and her camera was stolen from her cameraman. On the 18^th May, members of Avila TV were verbally attacked when attending an event organized by the MUD opposition alliance, and on the 20^th May a journalist from news network AVN was attacked in the state of Amazonas when working. On the 13^th June there were accusations made by the VTV journalist Arbenys Padilla of violence from members of Capriles’ First Justice Party in the eastern city of Maturin.

Capriles claims that these accusations by journalists from the public means of communication are “lies”, “inventions” and “wastes of time”.

In May the SNMP and Capriles’ campaign team programmed a meeting to resolve such issues through dialogue, but Capriles’ representatives failed to attend on the day, leaving public sector journalists fearful for their safety when covering future events.

A recent report by Human Rights Watch, a right wing US sponsored group to denounce human rights abuses, claimed that in Venezuela there is frequent aggression against private sector journalists and against freedom of speech, claiming that the Government doesn’t allow private sector opposition voices to be heard. These attacks against journalists only go to show that there is some truth in the report’s conclusion- that there are frequent aggressions against journalists in Venezuela, and violations of freedom of speech- however these aggressions do not originate from the Government and are not directed against private sector journalists, but rather originate from the right wing campaign and are directed against journalists from the public means of communication such as VTV.

There are currently 13 cases presented to the legal authorities by journalists of the SNMP of violence against them when covering opposition events, and the SNMP have advised journalists to attend opposition events with “helmets” and “body protectors” as they are, according to Minister Izarra, at “high risk”.


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