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Venezuela detains at least ten foreign journalists in the last two weeks of January



*This note has been updated to add information about the detention of three additional journalists from news agency EFE and their driver, as well as two French journalists from channel TMC.

Since the president of the National Assembly and opposition leader Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself as interim president of Venezuela, the country has experienced massive protests and attacks on national and international press by the government of Nicolás Maduro have intensified, according to several organizations that defend human rights.

In this context, at least ten foreign journalists have been detained in recent days –two of them deported– after covering social demonstrations of supporters of Maduro and Guaidó.

On Jan. 30, three journalists from the Spanish news agency EFE and their Venezuelan driver were detained by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin), according to EFE. Colombian photographer Leonardo Muñoz and driver José Salas were detained on the street, and Colombian journalist Mauren Barriga Vargas and Spanish journalist Gonzalo Domínguez Loeda were detained at EFE agency's office in Caracas, El País reported.

The government of Spain "energetically" rejected the incident, EFE reported, and demanded that the Venezuelan government respect the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, according to what was posted to an official profile via Twitter. The president of EFE told the press that the detained journalists had been duly accredited since entering the country. The Spanish embassy in the Venezuelan capital was able to manage the release of press workers on Jan. 31, reported El País.

Also on Jan. 30, two French journalists were detained while recording the Miraflores Palace, EFE reported. They were released the following day and, according to the Twitter account for show Quotidien, were returning to Paris.

EFE added that the French government earlier demanded their release.

Chilean journalist Rodrigo Pérez and cameraman Gonzalo Barahona were detained on the night of Jan. 29 in the vicinity of Miraflores Palace in Caracas while covering a demonstration, CNN Chile reported.

The Venezuelan Ambassador to Chile, Arévalo Méndez, assured La Tercera that the press workers are being deported for abusing their status as tourists to carry out journalistic coverage without being duly accredited.

According to the international news network, the journalists were taken to the airport to be deported without being able to collect their belongings at the hotel where they were staying.

A few days earlier, Brazilian journalist Rodrigo Lopes, special envoy to Caracas from RBS Group of Brazil, was detained for two hours on Jan. 25 at a military headquarters in front of the Miraflores Palace, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) published.

According to the IAPA, Lopes was approached by a man in plain clothes while photographing Maduro supporters. After reviewing the images on the journalist’s cell phone, which had photos of an earlier demonstration in favor Guaidó, this person accused him before authorities of being an opposition activist, the organization said.

According to the organization, Lopes remained incommunicado and without his passport during the detention and was photographed and threatened with imprisonment before returning to his country.

María Elvira Domínguez, president of the IAPA, held the government responsible for "the safety of journalists who seek to inform the public on the tumultuous situation that Venezuela is going through.”

On Jan. 13, Venezuelan correspondent for Colombian channel Noticias Caracol, Beatriz Adrián, and CNN's Osmary Hernández were detained in the vicinity of the main headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) while reporting on the arrest of Guaidó, according to the organization Espacio Público.

The NGO reported that both journalists were beaten at the time of their detention and were later searched, registered and photographed at the Sebin before their release that same day.

The Foreign Press Association (APEX) rejected the act of aggression against the journalists, Efecto Cocuyo reported. "The unjustified attacks against these journalists constitute another notorious violation of the rights of expression and information; to the work of correspondents and journalists in general and the press in Venezuela," the association said.

The national media and journalists were also affected by arbitrary detentions, confiscation of equipment, cuts to internet signal, closure of facilities, etc.

Espacio Público documented 15 violations to freedom of expression throughout the country on Jan. 23. There were blockades in social networks and search engines like Google by the country's main internet provider, Cantv; several journalists covering the demonstrations were assaulted by police officers and stripped of their cell phones and work equipment.

The organization also documented that Global TV channel in the state of Zulia was taken off the air that day. After the media outlet broadcast Guaidó taking his oath, government officials stormed its offices and took its transmitter.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) demanded that Venezuelan authorities stop blocking news media and ensure internet access in the country during the national political crisis.

Emmanuel Colombié, head of RSF’s Latin America bureau (RSF), warned that press freedom is in danger in Venezuela and that the Maduro government must guarantee the safety of journalists. “In this time of trouble, the freedom to inform is more essential than ever for all Venezuelans.”



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