Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (third from right) speaks during a meeting with ministers in Caracas, Venezuela, November 1, 2017. CPJ called on Venezuelan authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the disappearance of Venezuelan freelance photographer Jesús Medina Ezaine. (Miraflores Palace/Reuters)

Venezuelan photographer goes missing following threats

November 6, 2017 6:04 PM ET

Bogotá, Colombia, November 6, 2017--The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Venezuelan authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the disappearance of Jesús Medina Ezaine, a Venezuelan freelance photographer who went missing on November 4.

Medina tweeted that he and his family began receiving threats on November 1, the day after his article on Tocorón, one of Venezuela's most violent and overcrowded prisons, was published on the widely read news site Dólar Today.

The journalist did not specify who made the threats or if the threats were made anonymously.

Elyangelica González, the Venezuela correspondent for the Miami-based Univisión TV network, wrote in a tweet that shortly before Medina disappeared, she had received a message from him saying: "Urgent. They've got me."

The director of the Caracas free-expression organization Espacio Público, Carlos Correa, told CPJ that government security forces might have detained Medina or criminal gangs who were upset with the journalist's recent reporting on the lax security conditions at Tocorón prison could have targeted the journalist.

The National Union of Press Workers said via Twitter that officials from Venezuela's intelligence body, the National Bolivarian Intelligence Service, have denied that they were holding Medina at their main detention facility in Caracas.

"We are deeply troubled by the disappearance of Jesús Medina Ezaine given the current turmoil in Venezuela," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney from New York City. "We hold the government of President Nicolás Maduro responsible for ensuring his welfare and swift return."

Medina's work has frequently appeared on Dólar Today, which is based in the U.S. and is fiercely critical of Venezuela's socialist government. The site also provides information on the country's black-market exchange rate.

During a reporting trip to Tocorón in October, the prison's director accused Medina and two foreign correspondents, Roberto di Matteo of Italy and Filippo Rossi of Switzerland, of smuggling unauthorized audiovisual equipment into the penitentiary, according to news reports. Prison authorities held the journalists for two days and then freed them without charges.

Dólar Today published the photos and video Medina took as well as images provided by some prison guards that purportedly show numerous irregularities at Tocorón, such as inmates in possession of weapons, smart phones, and motorcycles. In his report, Medina also described how criminal gangs partially control the prison.

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