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A mosaic of late leader Hugo Chavez and President Nicolas Maduro is seen in Caracas, Venezuela, on December 19, 2019. Venezuelan authorities recently released freelance photojournalist Jesús Medina after 16 months of detention. (AP/Matias Delacroix)

Venezuelan photojournalist Jesús Medina released after 16 months in prison

January 7, 2020 1:10 PM ET

New York, January 7, 2020 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists today welcomed the release of Venezuelan freelance photojournalist Jesús Medina after more than 16 months of arbitrary detention, and called for Venezuelan authorities to drop all charges against him.

Medina was released from the Ramo Verde military prison around 10 p.m. last night, according to Stefania Migliorini, a lawyer with Foro Penal, a legal aid group that represented Medina, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app and who posted a photo of Medina on Twitter following his release. Intelligence agents detained Medina in Caracas on August 29, 2018, and in October 2018 authorities charged him with crimes including criminal association and inciting hate, and transferred him to pretrial detention, according to CPJ research.

“Jesús Medina should not have spent one night in prison. It is inexcusable that Venezuelan authorities held him for sixteen months without a trial,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick. “Authorities must immediately drop all charges against Medina and stop detaining critical journalists.”

Under a court order issued today, Medina is barred from leaving the country following his release, and is required to present himself to authorities once a week, according to news reports.

At a preliminary hearing in May 2019, which had been postponed eight times, a judge ordered Medina to remain in custody until he could be tried for incitement and criminal association, according to CPJ research. He suffered from dental and vision problems while in detention, Migliorini told CPJ in September 2019. Medina posted a video on Twitter this morning thanking his supporters.

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