Newspaper columnist shot to death in Venezuela

New York, May 20, 2011–Wilfred Iván Ojeda, a Venezuelan newspaper columnist and politician, was shot to death on Tuesday in the city of La Victoria, Aragua state, according to press reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists urged authorities today to fully investigate the murder and bring all those responsible to justice.

Ojeda, 56, a political columnist with the daily El Clarín and a long-time activist with the opposition Democratic Action party, was found dead on Tuesday morning, press reports said. His body was discovered in a vacant lot, shot in the head, gagged, hooded, and with his hands tied, according to local investigators. Ojeda’s columns focused on local politics and were not considered harsh, according to local journalists.

The columnist’s vehicle was found 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the scene. The daily El Nacional said Ojeda was driving Monday afternoon when his vehicle was intercepted by unidentified assailants. His belongings did not appear to have been taken, the police said.

“We urge Venezuelan authorities to fully investigate the brutal murder of newspaper columnist Wilfred Ojeda, establish whether he was killed for his work, and bring those responsible to justice,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. 

CPJ’s database of killed journalists shows that while lethal violence is uncommon in Venezuela, three journalists have been killed for their work since 2002: Orel Sambrano, Jorge Aguirre, and Jorge Ibraín Tortoza Cruz. The motives behind the killings of three other journalists–Pierre Fould GergesJesús Rafael Flores Rojas, and Mauro Marcano–are still unclear and CPJ continues to investigate.