Former police officer convicted in photographer’s murder

New York, May 20, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Monday’s conviction by a Venezuelan court of former police officer Boris Blanco for the 2006 murder of photojournalist Jorge Aguirre.

The Caracas 14th Mixed Trial Tribunal convicted Blanco, a former police officer in the Chacao municipality of Caracas, of Aguirre’s homicide, according to reports in the Venezuelan media. The court gave Blanco a 15-year prison sentence, said the news reports.

“We hail Boris Blanco’s conviction for the murder of Jorge Aguirre,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “So often those who kill journalists never face the consequences. Blanco’s conviction sends an important message that impunity cannot be tolerated.”

Blanco had been charged with murder and impersonation of a public official in June 2006. His trial began in November 2007. According to reports in the local press, prosecutors presented dozens of witness testimonies to support the accusation against Blanco. The former police officer was not convicted on the impersonation charges, said reports in the Venezuelan press.

Aguirre, 60, a photographer with the newspaper chain Cadena Capriles, which publishes the daily El Mundo, was photographing renovations to a Caracas stadium when he decided to cover a nearby anticrime demonstration on the afternoon of April 5, 2006, El Mundo Editor Enrique Rondón told CPJ. While heading to the protest in a white Toyota Corolla marked with the paper’s logo, a man driving a motorcycle approached Aguirre’s vehicle and ordered the driver to stop the car, claiming he was with the authorities, Rondón said. When the driver did not stop the car, the motorcyclist followed and shot Aguirre four times as he was getting out of the car with his camera. The journalist managed to take a picture of the killer’s back as he fled the scene on his motorcycle. With the help of bystanders, the driver put Aguirre in the car and took him to a local hospital, where he died a few hours later.

On April 13, members of the national crime police apprehended Blanco after a former colleague identified him as the driver of the motorcycle, the Caracas-based daily El Universal reported. Investigators later searched Blanco’s home and found evidence connecting him to the crime scene, the local press said.