Journalist shot and injured

New York, January 16, 2009–Unidentified individuals shot and injured a Venezuelan journalist outside the offices of the local daily El Regional in the southwestern Portuguesa province on Tuesday evening. The Committee to Protect Journalists called today on Venezuelan authorities to investigate the attack and bring all those responsible to justice. 

At 6:20 p.m., unidentified individuals in a car shot Rafael Finol, the political editor for the daily El Regional in Acarigua, 207 miles (333 kilometers) southwest of Caracas, as he was leaving the paper’s offices with several colleagues, according to local news reports and CPJ interviews. He was shot in the head and rushed to a local hospital, where he received medical attention. The journalist told CPJ today that he was recovering from the injuries.

Finol, 61, said he believed the attack was retaliation for El Regional‘s political reporting. Local journalists told CPJ the paper backs Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s, and Finol said that he met with Chávez days before the attack. He said he had not received previous threats.

Local authorities are investigating the incident, according to news reports. Finol told CPJ that investigators believe hired assassins were involved in the attack.

“We call on Venezuelan authorities to conduct a thorough and speedy investigation into the attack against Rafael Finol, and bring all those responsible to justice,” said CPJ Americas Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. “Venezuelans have the right to seek and receive information from a wide variety of sources, especially in a critical political moment for the country. We urge authorities to ensure that all journalists are able to report freely and without fear of intimidation.”

On Wednesday, the Venezuelan National Assembly approved a constitutional amendment that would allow Chávez to run for indefinite reelection, The Associated Press reported. The reform will be voted on in a popular referendum as early as February 15, according to local and international news reports.