On March 30, 2019, police from Lagunillas, a municipality in Zulia state, beat and detained journalist Danilo Alberto Gil, a reporter for Venezuelan news outlet NotiRedVe–which operates on Twitter and Facebook–at around 9:30 a.m., while he was covering an opposition protest in the town of Ciudad Ojeda, according to posts on Twitter by NotiRedVe, local press freedom group Espacio Público, and the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP). At the time of his arrest, Gil was recording video of police attacking protesters and attempting to detain an opposition politician and member of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Carlos Velazco, NotiRedVe and the SNTP reported on Twitter.
The SNTP said on Twitter on March 30 that the director of the Lagunillas municipal police, Ilder Peralta, had assured the group that Gil was detained by order of Zulia Governor Omar Prieto. Espacio Público said on Twitter on April 1 that Peralta had transferred Gil to the prosecutor’s office in retaliation for the repeated calls for his release.
CPJ called Peralta at the headquarters of the Lagunillas municipal police on April 1, 2019, seeking comment on Gil’s detention. An agent took the call and indicated that he would pass the message to Peralta and have him return the call; however, he did not respond as of April 4.
Zulia state was without power for several days in late March and early April, local media reported. Most of the country has been suffering periodic blackouts and power cuts in recent weeks, leading the government of Nicolás Maduro to announce on March 31, 2019, a 30-day plan to ration electricity.
In a separate incident, Espacio Público reported on Twitter that Dayana Krays, a reporter for Venemundo Web, a news outlet that operates on social media, was threatened with a handgun by armed civilians known as “colectivos” while covering protests in Caracas on March 31, 2019. Krays posted a video of the incident on Twitter.
The incidents came amid an ongoing political and economic crisis in Venezuela. The blackouts have stifled reporting on the crisis, CPJ has documented. Meanwhile, local and international journalists covering the crisis have faced arbitrary arrests, equipment seizure, harassment, and violence at the hands of multiple groups, including state security forces, protesters, and armed civilians, according to CPJ reporting.