Venezuelan journalists detained covering protests

Two Venezuelan journalists were briefly arrested and interrogated by National Guard troops in late March 2014, according to news reports

Dayana Méndez, an intern for the daily Notitarde newspaper in the city of Valencia, suffered slight injuries by buckshot in the left leg, arms, and back while she was covering a protest on March 20, 2014. The troops “insulted us, shot tear gas at us, and fired at us point blank even though we identified ourselves as journalists,” Méndez told a news conference on March 21, 2014.

She was then detained by National Guard troops who she said seized her mobile phone, gas mask and flak jacket. She was released without charge after about five hours and sought medical attention for her wounds.

On March 22, 2014, Mildred Manrique, a reporter for the Caracas daily 2001, said National Guard troops had broken into her Caracas apartment and said they were searching for protesters who had pelted them with rocks. Manrique’s apartment faces Altamira Plaza, a gathering point for opposition activists who have been staging anti-government protests over the past two months.

“They told me: You have to come with us because this is terrorism,” Manrique told CNN.

The troops confiscated three of her computers and her cell phone. Manrique said she was detained without charge for four hours and that her computers were not returned. She has been threatened by government security forces in the past while covering demonstrations.

The detentions are the latest in a wave of violence and intimidation of journalists covering protests that broke out in February 2014 against food shortages, high crime, and inflation. President Nicolas Maduro claimed the protesters were attempting to overthrow his government and ordered police and National Guard troops to break up the demonstrations.

At least 34 people were killed and 400 injured in the protests, according to news reports.

Marco Ruiz, secretary general of the National Journalists Union in Venezuela, said there were 74 acts of aggression against 56 reporters by National Guard troops since the protests began. In a meeting on March 24, 2014, with Ruiz and other journalist union officials, National Guard commander Justo Noguera Pietri, said that his troops had committed human rights violations and that the cases were under investigation. But, in general, he said the National Guard “complies with the orders of our commander-in-chief to respect human rights.”