Miami, March 6, 2019--Venezuelan authorities should immediately release a U.S. freelance journalist and a Venezuelan fixer who were detained after counterintelligence agents raided their homes this morning in Caracas, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Agents from the Venezuelan counterintelligence services, the Dirección General de Contrainteligencia Militar (DGCIM), raided the homes of Cody Weddle, a freelance journalist and U.S. citizen, and Carlos Camacho, a Venezuelan fixer who was working with Weddle, around 8 a.m., according to a report by South Florida-based ABC affiliate WPLG Local 10--for which Weddle was working--and statements posted on Twitter by Venezuelan press groups. The agents, who presented a court order issued by a military tribunal, confiscated equipment from Weddle's home, including a computer and work equipment, according to a tweet by the Venezuelan press organization Espacio Público.
WPLG in its report this morning said Weddle's last contact with station employees had been yesterday afternoon, and that attempts to reach him had been unsuccessful. This afternoon, the Venezuelan press workers' union reported on Twitter that Weddle and Camacho were detained at DGCIM headquarters in Boleíta, Caracas, and that according to DGCIM both were being interrogated at that time.
"The detention of Cody Weddle and Carlos Camacho at the behest of a military tribunal is a frightening escalation of Venezuelan authorities' attempts to intimidate journalists into silence," said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in Washington, D.C. "Rather than responding to international calls to respect press freedom, authorities have instead doubled down on censorship and harassment. Weddle and Camacho should be released immediately, and all of their equipment returned."
Dozens of journalists, both local and foreign, have been arbitrarily detained in recent weeks amid the political crisis in Venezuela, including the brief detention at the Miraflores presidential palace of Univision's crew headed by Jorge Ramos last week after Nicolás Maduro abruptly ended an interview, as CPJ documented. Weddle has tweeted about these detentions.
According to his Twitter profile, Weddle is a freelance journalist who has resided for years in Venezuela and worked for outlets including ABC, CBS, The Miami Herald, and The Telegraph.
Weddle's most recent contribution to Local 10, published March 4, focused on Juan Guaidó's return to Venezuela after several days abroad. Guaidó, who is the president of the Venezuelan legislature, has been recognized by dozens of countries as the interim president of the country, challenging Maduro's claim to the presidency and sparking a political crisis. Weddle also linked to the piece on his Twitter account.
CPJ attempted to contact DGCIM via the phone number posted on their website, but there was no answer.
CPJ has issued a safety advisory for journalists covering the crisis in Venezuela.