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New York, November 18, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about recent attacks on Venezuelan journalists, the latest of which occurred yesterday at the 24-hour news channel Globovisión.

On Sunday, November 17, a bomb went off in the parking lot of Globovisión’s offices, which are located in the eastern section of the capital, Caracas. According to local news reports, no one was injured, but three vehicles—one car belonging to a journalist and two Globovisión mobile units—were destroyed.

A similar attack occurred a month earlier at Unión Radio when unidentified individuals drove by and threw a small bomb outside the station’s offices, also in eastern Caracas. The building and an adjacent house suffered minor damage, but no one was hurt.

Other recent attacks on the media
Two weeks ago, on November 4, several journalists were attacked while covering an opposition march and street clashes between security forces and radical government supporters in downtown Caracas.

  • Cameraman Mauricio Muñoz Amaya, a Salvadoran who works for Associated Press Television News (APTN), was hit with a 9 mm bullet in the chest while he stood filming behind a row of riot police, said APTN reporter Fernando Jáuregui. Because Muñoz was wearing a bulletproof vest, he suffered only minor injuries. It is unclear whether the journalist was targeted, or who fired the shot. The Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the incident.
  • Photographer Héctor Castillo, who works for the daily El Mundo, was taking photographs of a government supporter setting off fireworks when the man became angry and attempted to grab his camera. When Castillo resisted, about 15 men threw the photographer to the ground and kicked him several times, stealing his lens and flash. Another photographer Pedro Rey of the daily Notitarde, along with Desirée Santos Amaral, a journalist and parliamentary deputy for the ruling party, intervened and rescued Castillo. Rey’s flash and a mask he carried for protection against tear gas were stolen in the scuffle.

The opposition marchers intended to deliver hundreds of thousands of signatures calling for a referendum to end President Hugo Chávez Frías’ rule. Under the Venezuelan Constitution, a referendum to dissolve the government and call for new elections can only be held at the midpoint of the six-year presidential term, which is in August 2003.

Government supporters tried to block the march, erecting barricades and throwing bottles and stones, while others fired handguns. Security forces retaliated with tear gas and rubber bullets to keep both sides apart. According to estimates from the local press, about 60 people were injured in the clashes.

On the afternoon of November 10, two gunmen on a motorcycle attacked the bodyguard of Patricia Poleo, editor of the Caracas daily El Nuevo País, according to local news reports. The bodyguard, a police officer who was assigned to protect Poleo, was driving Poleo’s car near her house when the men approached him, fired several shots, and fled. The bullets hit the car, but the bodyguard escaped unharmed.

“The Venezuelan government should do everything possible to determine who perpetrated this violent series of attacks and bring them to justice,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Failing to do so will only compound the dangers for journalists seeking to cover these critical events.”