Miami, April 28, 2021 — Venezuelan authorities should thoroughly investigate the arson attack on the regional headquarters of the National Union of Journalists, and ensure those responsible are prosecuted, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On April 19, at around 4 a.m., unidentified individuals set fire to the regional headquarters of the National Union of Journalists (CNP) in the city of Cumaná, in the northeastern state of Sucre, according to media reports, Mónica Salazar, secretary-general of the union’s Sucre division, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and a preliminary report by the Cumaná Fire Brigade, which Salazar shared with CPJ.
The fire brigade’s report said the fire was manmade, and identified a hole in the building’s ceiling that was likely used by the arsonists to enter the headquarters. Though no one was harmed in the attack, the headquarters were completely destroyed, Salazar told CPJ.
“We are very concerned by the arson attack on the Sucre headquarters of the Venezuelan National Union of Journalists, an organization that has been at the forefront of the fight against the repeated attacks by the Venezuelan government on the independent press,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Venezuelan authorities must act diligently and quickly to investigate this attack, identify those responsible, and bring them to justice.”
The CNP is a professional organization that counts more than 26,000 Venezuelan journalists as registered members, and advocates for press freedom and journalists’ rights, according to Edgar Cárdenas, secretary-general of the union’s Caracas division, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
On April 20, the CNP filed a complaint to the Venezuelan judicial police, Salazar told CPJ, adding that they have not heard any results from the investigation and that no suspects have been identified.
CPJ called the Cumaná headquarters of the Venezuelan judicial police for comment, but no one answered.
The CNP called the fire “intentional” on its Twitter account, adding that the arsonists sought “to silence the fight carried out by the guild.” The organization regularly denounces abuses committed against journalists and media organizations by Venezuelan authorities.
A local journalist who asked to remain anonymous, citing security concerns, told CPJ, “Salazar and the other directors of the CNP-Sucre, who all are local journalists and correspondents in the state, are the eyes of what is happening there, and they have been very critical of what the government does.”
“We know we are a target. This is an attack against the exercise of journalism,” Salazar told CPJ.