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At least 62 journalists physically attacked in Venezuela

By Reporters Without Borders

Elsy Barrios, of the daily Impacto, was insulted and jostled while covering an occupation of an oilfield in Anaco (in the northeastern state of Anzoátegui) by supporters of President Hugo Chávez on 2 January 2003. She was forced to leave the scene.

Sandra Blanco, of the TV station CMT, and her crew were attacked while covering a demonstration in Caracas by the opposition Coordinadora Demócratica on 3 January. Chávez supporters threw stones at them, forcing them to leave.

Carla Angola, of the TV station Globovisión, was attacked and insulted during a live interview with supporters of Chávez demonstrating in Caracas on 3 January. The same day, Jorge Labrador, of the TV station Televén, was attacked by pro-Chávez people who insulted him and threw stones at him.

Antonio Barroso, a cameraman with the TV station CMT, was hit by government supporters on 4 January in front of the prosecutor-general's office in Caracas. He was rushed to hospital and his equipment was stolen. Two days later, at another protest in front of the office, a journalist with another CMT crew was insulted and jostled.

Verioska Velasco and Luis Mata, of the regional TV station Promar TV, were attacked by government supporters who threw stones and sharp objects at them as they reported on an opposition demonstration on 6 January in Barquisimeto (in the northeastern state of Lara). The camera they used to film the attack was stolen. Photographer Samuel Sotomayor, of the station RCTV, was hit on the head.

Mauricio Cabal, Ruben Brito and Marcos Martínez, of the TV station Venevisión, were attacked on 7 January in Anaco by Chávez supporters who surrounded their vehicle, insulted and threatened them and then hit it with iron bars and stones. The journalists were investigating a report of an oil leak at a PDVSA state oil company factory. A soldier present did not intervene.

Men in a lorry threw bricks at journalist Katerina Caripá and cameraman Miguel López, of the TV station Telecentro, on 7 January in the northwestern city of Barquisimeto and accused them of being liars.

Government supporters attacked a vehicle belonging to the TV station Puertovisión with iron bars and stones on 7 January on the Puerto Cabello motorway (in Carabobo state, west of Caracas). Reporter Humberto Ambrosino and cameraman José Soler had just interviewed officials of the state oil company PDVSA who were on strike in protest against Chávez' policies.

Javier Gutiérrez, of the daily El Regional, was hit while covering clashes between police and demonstrators on 8 January near a PDVSA factory in Tía Juana (northwestern state of Zulia). His camera was confiscated and not returned for several days. The next day, at an opposition protest in the town, Rafael Gómez Torres, of the same paper, was beaten up by soldiers who destroyed his camera.

Victor Serra, of Televén, was insulted and hit by Chávez supporters while covering a demonstration in the western city of Merida on 9 January. They accused the station of biased reporting.

Juan José Acosta Rodríguez, of the programme "Más Allá de la Noticia" on the regional TV station Telecaribe, was beaten by police in the northern town of Nueva Esparta on 10 January. He had complained to them he had been threatened by other officers while covering a demonstration. The police chased him in a car and then one officer hit him while another threatened him with a gun.

Hector Castillo, a photographer with the daily El Mundo, received leg and knee injuries from rubber bullets while covering an opposition demonstration in Caracas on 13 January. Police fired tear-gas and rubber bullets at a crowd that tried to break through a security barrier around a military zone.

Hooded people in cars attacked an opposition march and journalists from Televén covering it in Caracas on 14 January, throwing burning objects at the TV station's vehicle, which caught fire. National guardsmen watched without intervening.

Juan Carlos Toro, of Televén, and his crew were attacked by Chávez supporters, who pelted them with objects on 14 January as they were filming an opposition demonstration from a building in Caracas.

John Merchán, Carlos Perez and technician Carlos Castro, of Televén, were threatened in Caracas on 16 January by pro-Chávez demonstrators supporters who tried to steal their antenna. The technician was attacked and when journalists tried to help him they were pushed away.

Alfredo Morales and Carlos Lathosesky, of the regional station TVS, in the northern state of Aragua, were attacked during an opposition protest in Maracay (120 km west of Caracas) on 18 January by demonstrators who beat them with a microphone cable they had snatched. Police intervened to disperse the attackers and escort the journalists to their vehicle.

Ricardo Matheus and photographer Cesar Muro, of the daily 2001, were attacked in Charallave (50 km southeast of Caracas) on 20 January by pro-Chávez demonstrators who threw stones at Matheus, stole their mobile phones and also Muro's camera.

Reporter Jorge Labrador and cameraman Franklin Molina, of Televén, were threatened by a gunman as they were looking for locations in the Los Frailes neighbourhood of Catia (west of Caracas) on 22 January. He fired in the air to frighten them and force them to leave.

Janett Carrasquilla, correspondent of Globovisión in San Carlos (northwestern state of Cojedes), was attacked and insulted on 28 January while covering a ceremony to decorate a national guard general, Luis Felipe Acosta Carles. Government supporters seized her microphone.

Anahis Cruz, of the station RCTV, was attacked, insulted and threatened with a gun by a soldier in Maracay on 28 January.

Maite Moreno and Narka Moreno, of the community station Catia TV, were attacked in Caracas on 2 February during an opposition signature campaign. Such locally-run neighbourhood stations have flourished since Chávez came to power and they were legally recognised in an August 2000 law. They often support the government.

Hooded men, apparently Chávez supporters, set fire to a vehicle belonging to the TV station CMT in central Caracas during clashes with the opposition on 2 February. Shortly before, CMT journalist Rafael Fuenmayor, cameraman Carlos Delgado and his assistant, Vladimir Bataglini, were robbed of their equipment and personal belongings.

Elsy Barrios, of the daily Impacto, was attacked by Chávez supporters in Anaco on 2 February while covering their occupation of an oilfield.

In Maracay on 2 February, about 50 Chávez supporters threw stones at a vehicle of the TV station Telecaribe in which reporter Jackson Faría and cameraman Juan José Acosta Rodríguez were travelling and beat them and tried to steal their camera.

Angel Veliz, a photographer with the daily Impacto, in Anaco, was hit by Chávez supporters who tried to steal his equipment while he was covering clashes between oil industry strikers and government supporters on 4 February. National guardsmen did not intervene and Veliz said a soldier held him while he was being hit. Journalists Victor Arias, of the daily Impacto, Daniel Olivares and Moreiba Castellanos, of the daily El Tiempo, and Milinse Castellanos, of Radio Orbita, were also attacked.

Reporter Gabriela Díaz and photographer José Ramón Chicho Bello, both of the daily El Tiempo, were detained for more than an hour on 5 February in Puerto La Cruz (300 km east of Caracas) by student supporters of ¨President Chávez. The journalists had refused to hand over film taken of clashes between students and teachers in both camps. They were freed after the intervention of the prosecutor's office and a representative of the state ombudsman. The film was eventually developed in front of the students, who wanted to ensure it contained nothing compromising.

Charmiant Corado, of Televén, and her crew were attacked in Yagua, near Valencia (Carabobo state), on 5 February after filming incidents at the entrance to a refinery being run by strikebreakers hired by the government. Their way was blocked by a van and 20 people who took their film and Corado's mobile phone and then broke a window of their vehicle and hit the cameraman's assistant.

About 60 opposition supporters stopped a vehicle of the Agence France-Presse news agency in Caracas on 21 February. Shouting "You're French, you're from [the French daily] Le Monde, you support Chávez," they rocked the vehicle and stopped its two occupants getting out. In late December 2002, Le Monde had printed an editorial saying the opposition had never been able to accept that "a junior officer of humble birth and half-Indian should disturb the lifestyle of the traditional ruling class."

The vehicle of Junior Pinto and Henry Rodríguez, of the state-run Venezolana de Televisión, was surrounded by opposition demonstrators in Caracas on 11 April, the first anniversary of the 2002 protests in which several people were killed and which led to an abortive coup. Its windows were smashed and demonstrators hurled insults and threats at the journalists and forced them to retreat.

Juan Carlos Amado, a cameraman with COTRAIN, an independent group that makes documentaries, was attacked in the centre of Caracas on 1 May while filming a clash between opponents and supporters of President Chávez during a demonstration. He was suspected by the crowd of working for the government and beaten by a member of the opposition Primero Justicia party and his equipment destroyed.

Activists of the Patria Para Todos (PPT) party, a member of the government coalition, insulted and threatened Roberto Giusti, of Radio Caracas and the daily El Universal, outside the station's office in Caracas on 2 May and accused him of being responsible for the death of Jorge Nieves, a PPT leader in the Guasdalito region (near the Colombian border). Giusti had said Nieves was an ally of Colombian guerrillas believed to be in the region.

Marta Colomina described on her programme "La entrevista" on Televén on 27 June how someone had thrown a petrol bomb at her on her way to the station that morning. She said two vehicles had tried to stop hers and four armed men had got out of one and had thrown the bomb at her car but it failed to explode.

Patricia Poleo, a strong Chávez opponent, was attacked on 10 July as she took part in the "Cuentamelo todo" programme on the Barinas 880 radio station in the western town of Barinas. A group of Chávez supporters hit and insulted her and the programme's guests and then damaged the studio.

Tim Flores, of the radio station FM 103.5, in the southeastern city of Puerto Ordaz, and a well-known critic of Chávez and the local Bolívar state governor, was beaten up on 10 July by two strangers who pointed a gun at him, dragged him out of his car and threatened him with further violence.

Efraín Henriquez, a cameraman with Globovisión, was hit in the face by someone who tried to steal his equipment while he was filming a pro-Chávez demonstration in Caracas on 20 August.

Rafael Leal, an assistant cameraman with Venevisión, was arrested and beaten by national guardsmen in the northwestern town of Punto Fijo on 26 September while covering the eviction from their company housing of PDVSA workers sacked after the December 2002-February 2003 strike. He was freed two hours later after being forced to sign a document saying he had thrown stones at the guardsmen and had not been mistreated in detention.

Yamile Jimenez and cameraman Jesús Molina, of RCTV, were attacked by a member of the DISIP political police on 3 November in a hospital in San Antonio (in the western state of Tachira). They had come to find out how a DISIP agent injured in an incident a few days earlier was getting on. They were threatened with arrest if they did not leave the hospital. Other DISIP agents did not intervene and instead criticised journalists as a whole.

Miguel Henrique Otero, owner of the Caracas daily El Nacional, was attacked on 28 November by government supporters who threw bottles and other objects at him near the western Caracas metro station of Carapita, where he was guiding a group of foreign reporters covering an opposition signature campaign for a referendum to force President Chávez from power. A Venevisión crew led by Gaudi Perozo was also attacked and had to flee.

José Gil, a photographer with the local daily El Siglo, and Anahis Cruz, regional correspondent of RCTV, were beaten on 30 November by government supporters when they took pictures of them barring opposition supporters from entering the main hospital in Maracay to collect signatures from patients for an anti-Chávez referendum.

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