CPJ emergencies director meets journalists at Venezuela-Colombia border

Safety concerns for media escalate along with political tensions

New York, March 7, 2019–The Committee to Protect Journalists traveled this week to Colombia, including its border with Venezuela, to meet with journalists and other press freedom organizations.

CPJ has documented escalating attacks on media covering Venezuela’s political crisis, including the brief detention on February 25 of an Univision crew in the presidential palace, confiscation of their equipment, and expulsion the next day. Yesterday, counterintelligence agents detained a U.S. freelance journalist and his Venezuelan fixer; both were released later that day. Authorities have also raided newsrooms and censored outlets, and security forces have assaulted journalists, according to CPJ research. The local press freedom organization IPYS Venezuela reported dozens of attacks on journalists in the last two months, including 21 press freedom violations on February 23 alone.

The Emergencies Response Team has provided safety information and advice. This week, CPJ Emergencies Director Maria Salazar Ferro traveled to Colombia to meet with Venezuelan, Colombian, and international journalists. Yesterday, Salazar Ferro traveled to Cucuta in northern Colombia with the local freedom of expression group FLIP to meet with journalists, including Venezuelans stranded there following the closing of the border. CPJ will provide them with emergency support and help them strengthen their safety protocols.

Our goal is to assess the rapidly changing situation first hand, and to understand how safety needs have evolved in tandem with the escalation of tensions during the political crisis,” Salazar Ferro said. “We want to understand how we can continue to support these journalists and help ensure that they can safely cover this developing story.

CPJ launched the Emergencies Response Team, headed by Salazar Ferro, in late 2016 to provide tangible safety advice and support to journalists in emergency situations. The team has addressed safety concerns on a wide range of issues, including covering elections and protests; preparing for screenings at border crossings; combating surveillance software; and hostile situations for journalists working in Syria, Nicaragua, Gaza and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The team has published safety advisories on, or deployed experts to, Iraq, Syria, Nicaragua, and the Gaza strip. Visit CPJ’s website to learn more about the Emergencies Response Team, or sign up for its emails.