JANUARY 18, 2004
Posted: January 30, 2004
Joshua Torres, Globovisión
Zullivan Peña, Globovisión
Cameraman Torres and his assistant Peña, who both work for the
24-hour Caracas-based TV news channel Globovisión, were attacked
by alleged government supporters while they were covering an opposition
event in Caracas.
The TV crew had been assigned to cover a political rally by the opposition
party Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), which was celebrating the anniversary
of its foundation in downtown Bolívar Square, Torres told CPJ.
Around 10:30 a.m., as Torres and Peña were moving in a Globovisión
car on Urdaneta Avenue, they saw a group of hooded men armed with sticks
and pipes beating a woman. According to Torres, the woman was wearing
an orange shirt-the color worn by MAS supporters. Torres began filming
the incident from inside the car. When a man alerted the attackers that
they were being filmed, they tried to block the journalists' vehicle.
Peña, who was driving the car, accelerated in an attempt to escape,
but the attackers began hitting the car with sticks and pipes, smashing
the car's windshield. As the car was leaving, a shot was fired, hitting
the side of the vehicle. Torres and Peña suffered no injuries.
Globovisión's car was not marked "Press." Because Venezuelan journalists
who cover political events have been routinely attacked, journalists often
hide their press credentials and seldom identify their vehicles.
According to Torres, some of the attackers were wearing T-shirts and hats
bearing symbols of government programs and of neighborhood organizations
that have close ties to the government.
Later that day, police experts inspected the car for evidence related
to the attack. On January 19, Torres and Peña filed a complaint
with the Public Prosecutor's Office in Caracas.
FEBRUARY 12, 2004
Posted: February 23, 2004
Víctor Serra, Cambio de Siglos
Serra, a reporter for the daily Cambio de Siglo based in Mérida
State, was attacked by state police while covering student protests against
the government in the city of Mérida.
The attack occurred at around 11:30 a.m. near the scene of the protests,
Serra told CPJ. Riot police surrounded Serra and Cambio de Siglo's
lawyer Javier Pulido and attacked them without warning. Pulido was beaten
with police shields but managed to escape. Four to five police officers
then cornered Serra with their shields. He identified himself as a journalist,
but the officers beat him with shields and sabers for about 30 seconds,
hitting him in his arms, legs, chest, and back. After one officer gave
an order, they stopped and told him to leave.
Firefighters then helped the journalist to a hospital, where he was treated
for several bruises on his arms and legs. He was released the same day
and prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications.
The day of the attack, Serra filed complaints with the local Public Prosecutor's
Office and the police.
FEBRUARY 27, 2004
Posted: April 6, 2004
Vladimir Gallardo, El Impulso
Carlos Montenegro, Televén
Gallardo, photographer with the regional daily El Impulso, and
Montenegro, a cameraman with the Caracas–based private television
station Televén, were injured while covering violent street clashes
in the capital, Caracas, in the wake of a four–day antigovernment
protest. The protesters were demanding a referendum to recall President
Hugo Chávez Frías.
Venezuelan National Guard troops fired rubber bullets and threw tear gas
grenades to disperse hundreds of opposition protesters, according to local
press reports. The crowd responded to the troops by throwing rocks. The
confrontation occurred while Chávez was hosting a summit meeting
of the leaders of 18 developing nations. Vladimir Gallardo was injured
when rubber pellets hit his face and abdomen while he was near Plaza Venezuela,
in downtown Caracas. Carlos Montenegro was shot in the leg while covering
the protests. Both Gallardo and Montenegro were taken to the hospital
and treated. According to local press reports, it is not known who fired
FEBRUARY 28, 2004
Posted: March 5, 2004
Billy Castro, Impacto
Wilmar Rodríguez, Impacto
Castro and Rodríguez, a photographer and a reporter, respectively,
with the daily Impacto, based in the northeastern state of Anzoátegui,
were attacked by government supporters.
That morning, Castro told CPJ, he heard that government supporters had
taken over the Chamber of Commerce in the city of Anaco and went there
to cover the story. Anaco's Chamber of Commerce served as the local offices
of the opposition umbrella group Coordinadora Democrática. When
Castro arrived at the scene, police, army troops, and National Guardsmen
were positioned in front of the Chamber of Commerce. Rodríguez,
who works as a political correspondent for Impacto, arrived later.
At about 12:30 p.m., as some government supporters helped the security
forces to evict other government supporters who were chanting slogans
against government opponents and journalists, a woman pushed Rodríguez
and attacked her verbally. When Rodríguez complained, another man
grabbed the journalist and beat her. As government supporters began encircling
Rodríguez, Castro came to help her and, while trying to take her
away from the crowd, government supporters hit him in the head with a
stone and began beating him. As Castro fell on the floor, Rodríguez
saw one man pull out a handgun. Thinking the man was going to shoot Castro,
Rodríguez yelled, after which two soldiers came and rescued the
According to Castro, the protesters were wearing T-shirts with the logo
of the Círculos Bolivarianos, a network of neighborhood committees
that are controlled by the Venezuelan government. Before the attack, Castro
said, he and Rodríguez had identified themselves as journalists
to the crowd.
The police took Castro to a private clinic where he was treated and released.
An hour after the attack, Castro filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor's
Office. On March 4, Castro told CPJ, the Círculos Bolivarianos
issued a press release accusing him of being the aggressor.
MARCH 2, 2004
Posted: March 5, 2004
Juan Carlos Aguirre, CMT
Alejandro Marcano, CMT
Aguirre and Marcano, members of a news crew with Caracas-based TV channel
CMT, were attacked and harassed by National Guard troops while they were
covering violent protests in support of a referendum to revoke President
Hugo Chávez Frías' mandate.
The attack took place at about 8 p.m., while reporter Aguirre and cameraman
Marcano were covering the protests in the neighborhood of Altamira, in
eastern Caracas, Aguirre told CPJ. At the time, Aguirre said, the violent
protests had subsided and only a few protesters were throwing bottles
and Molotov cocktails in the direction of a checkpoint manned by National
Guard troops. Both journalists were wearing gas masks and bulletproof
After Aguirre and Marcano heard gunfire and saw several protesters run
away, they got closer to the checkpoint to report on the developments.
Then they heard people shouting at them. At first they thought the shouts
came from government supporters but later realized they came from National
Guard troops, who were throwing tear gas grenades at them. As the journalists
ran away, troops fired several shots, and the journalists threw themselves
on the ground.
Then three National Guardsmen grabbed Aguirre and dragged him several
meters. Then a group of 10 to 15 guardsmen encircled him and began beating
and kicking him. The reporter, who was wearing a gas mask, was told to
take it off and, after he did, he was hit in the head. One guardsman hit
him in the head with the butt of his gun. While Aguirre was being attacked,
the men told him, "This is so you learn to tell the truth, liar and coup
plotter." Aguirre did not see their faces because the agents were wearing
gas masks and helmets. When the men noticed he was bleeding, they said,
"This is enough. This is so you learn to tell the truth."
The guardsmen then approached Marcano, who had recorded the attack, and
forcibly removed his camera and his gas mask.
Aguirre, who was taken to a private clinic for treatment, told CPJ that
he did not file a complaint with the Public Prosecutor's Office because
he did not trust the judiciary to be impartial and doubted that the authorities
would carry out a serious investigation. CMT has subsequently recovered
the camera, he said, but its battery and the videotape were missing.
MARCH 2, 2004
Posted: March 5, 2004
Venezolana de Televisión
Government opponents attacked the facilities of the Caracas-based, state-owned
channel Venezolana de Televisión (VTV).
In a press conference held at noon on March 3, VTV President Vladimir
Villegas said that, in the evening of March 2, government opponents had
fired several shots and threw bottles, stones, and Molotov cocktails at
VTV facilities, reported state-owned Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV).
The opposition members also threw stones and firecrackers at VTV employees
who were entering and exiting the premises. No VTV employees were injured.
Villegas also said that for safety reasons, VTV employees had to stay
in the building until late in the evening, and that others who lived outside
Caracas had to sleep at VTV's offices, according to RNV. Villegas added
that the station decided against broadcasting images of the attack because
they did not want government supporters to come and defend VTV facilities,
which could have led to more confrontation and violence.
Since February 27, violent antigovernment protests have occurred throughout
Venezuela. The protesters are demanding a referendum to revoke President
Hugo Chávez Frías' mandate.
MARCH 2, 2004
Posted: April 2, 2004
Víctor Yépez, Radio Máxima FM
Adda Pérez, Radio Máxima FM
Yépez, a host with the community radio station Máxima FM,
based in Ciudad Ojeda, in the northwestern state of Zulia, and Pérez,
the station's director, were attacked by opposition supporters who were
protesting against the government.
When Yépez and Pérez, a married couple who co–own
the station, arrived at their housing complex at around 10:45 p.m. in
their car, a crowd of opposition supporters was blocking the entrance
and burning tires, Yépez told CPJ. The journalists then tried to
go around the housing complex and enter through a back gate but were again
turned back. In a third attempt, through a side gate, Pérez tried
to persuade the protesters, saying that she and her husband were tired
and hungry. The protesters responded by accusing the journalists of being
government sympathizers and of running a pro–government radio station.
When Pérez exited the car to clear several stones and bottles that
were in front of the gate, the protesters threw a large rock that smashed
the journalists' car's windshield. Yépez then exited the car and
was attacked by a woman who tried to hit him with a metal rod. Yépez
managed to get back into the car and drive through the gate. Realizing
he had left his wife behind, he got out of the car and was punched and
kicked by protesters. Finally, a security guard who worked in the housing
complex fired three shots into the air and the protesters stopped beating
Yépez. Pérez escaped unharmed, but Yépez suffered
an injury to his nose.
During the attack, the crowd called for Yépez's lynching. According
to Yépez, the attackers were members of the opposition group Gente
del Petróleo, which is comprised of former employees of the state–owned
oil company PDVSA.
Yépez said that same evening he called the police and the National
Guard, but they never came. The next day, the journalists filed a complaint
with the police. Yépez also said that he asked the Washington,
D.C.-based Inter–American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to
grant them precautionary measures that call on the Venezuelan government
to guarantee the journalists' safety and provide for their protection.
The IACHR granted the measures on March 11.
MAY 10, 2004
Updated: May 25, 2004
Félix Carmona, El Universal
Jorge Santos, El Universal
Carmona, a reporter for the Caracas-based daily El Universal; Santos,
a photographer for the paper, and their driver, Andrés Pérez
Cova, were attacked and threatened by military intelligence personnel.
At 8:30 p.m., the journalists went to cover a raid at the house of former
President Carlos Andrés Pérez, Santos told CPJ. When the
journalists left Pérez's house at around 10:30 p.m., they were
assigned to cover another raid at the house of Rafael Marín, a
parliamentary deputy for the Acción Democrática opposition
While the journalists drove to the scene of the second raid, they met
a caravan of several Military Intelligence Directorate vehicles that had
stopped in the road. Thinking they had arrived at Marín's house,
the journalists stopped their car. When Santos exited the vehicle, a military
intelligence officer came, pointed a gun at him, and said, "If you take
a picture, I'll shoot you." Santos replied that he was doing his job,
and several officers began hitting him in the head, face, and chest with
the palm of their hands. They pointed a machine gun to his head and forced
him to give up his camera.
The officers then forced Carmona out of the car by pointing a gun to his
head, beat him, placed him face to the wall, and then grabbed his tape
recorder. The officers beat Pérez Cova, cocked a gun, and aimed
it at his head.
After Santos, Carmona, and Pérez Cova got inside their car, one
of the officers again ordered them to get out, saying they could be armed.
The officers searched them and took their press credentials and I.D. cards.
The officers told them that if El Universal reported on the attack,
they and their families would die. Before leaving, the officers destroyed
their car's radio, which the reporting team uses to stay in touch with
According to Santos, while some of the military intelligence officers
were wearing ski masks, others weren't, and he was able to identify them
as the same officers who conducted the first raid. Santos said he was
surprised by the attack, because he and Carmona were able to cover the
first raid without any problems.
On May 11, Carmona, Santos, and Pérez Cova filed a complaint with
the Prosecutor General's Office. Santos has not heard from authorities
since, and the reporting team has not recovered their camera, tape recorder,
press credentials, and I.D. cards.
MAY 29, 2004
Posted: June 9, 2004
Sandra Sierra, Notitarde
Pedro Rey, Notitarde
Marta Palma Troconis, Globovisión
Joshua Torres, Globovisión
Nahjla Isaacs Pérez, TVS
Jonathan Fernández, TVS
Six Venezuelan journalists were attacked by government supporters while
covering a signature verification process, known as a reparo, the
results of which triggered a recall referendum on President Hugo Chávez
Sierra, a reporter, and Rey, a photographer, were assaulted around 10:30
a.m. in the municipality of Sucre, in eastern Caracas. (The two journalists
work in the Caracas news bureau of the daily Notitarde, which is
based in Valencia, in the northern state of Carabobo.) When a group of
government followers arrived to protest the presence of opposition supporters,
Rey climbed on top of a heap of cement to have a better view of the scene,
according to Sierra. A government supporter grabbed Rey's camera, causing
the journalist to fall and the camera to break. Sierra found the camera's
flash, but two women struggled with her and took it. At the same time,
around 10 people started to beat Rey in the face, head, and back. The
military police then arrived at the scene, fired a shot into the air,
and established a security cordon around the journalists.
Sierra and Rey later were treated for their injuries at a medical clinic
and told to rest for several days. Both journalists have filed a complaint
with the Prosecutor General's Office.
At around 11 a.m., Palma and Torres, a reporter and a cameraman, respectively,
for the Caracas-based 24-hour news channel Globovisión, arrived
at the scene in Sucre. A government supporter tried to prevent the journalists
from reporting, Palma told CPJ. A crowd of government supporters then
assaulted Torres, hitting him in the head with a metal pipe. When Palma
tried to help him, four men threw her on the ground and kicked her. The
attackers stopped only after they grabbed Torres's video camera.
Palma and Torres suffered injuries and bruises on the head, arms, and
legs. They received treatment at a medical clinic and were ordered to
rest for a week by a physician. They recovered the video camera from a
man who found it during the attack and kept it safe. Palma and Torres
both filed complaints with the Prosecutor General's Office the day after
The assailants in both cases were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the
logo of Sucre's municipal government, which is headed by supporters of
Meanwhile, in the municipality of San Diego, in Carabobo, government supporters
attacked Isaacs and Fernández, a reporter and a cameraman, respectively,
who work for the regional television channel TVS. Issacs and Fernández
were pushed, beaten, and verbally abused by government supporters, according
to reports in Notitarde. The journalists took refuge at a local
store and left when the state police escorted them out.
JUNE 3, 2004
June 4, 2004
Radio Caracas Televisión
Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías angered
that he could face a recall vote attacked two media outlets.
At around 1 p.m., dozens of government supporters threw stones and other
objects at the offices of the Caracas-based television channel Radio Caracas
Televisión (RCTV). The attackers took a truck, crashed it against
the entrance, and set the vehicle on fire, RCTV journalist Luis Domingo
Álvarez told CPJ. National Guard troops arrived 20 minutes later,
and the attackers left. Most RCTV staff had to be evacuated.
Two hours later, about 20 people attacked the offices of the Caracas daily
El Nacional in downtown Caracas. According to Antonio Fernández,
a political editor at the paper, the attackers first threw bottles and
stones against the building, destroying several windows. They also burned
an El Nacional newspaper distribution truck.
The attackers then rammed a truck against the gates of the building's
parking lot, damaging several vehicles belonging to the newspaper's employees.
The assailants then ransacked the adjacent administrative offices of the
tabloid Así es la Noticia, which is owned by El Nacional's
publishing company, damaging computers, furniture, and windows. They dispersed
at around 5 p.m., when National Guard troops came and restored order.
The attacks against the media outlets came as Venezuelans were awaiting
an official announcement by the Electoral National Council (CNE) on the
results of a signature verification process, known as a reparo,
which could trigger a recall referendum on President Chávez.
Late in the afternoon on June 3, the CNE announced that enough signatures
had been gathered for a recall referendum. Chávez, who had accused
the opposition of fraud in collecting the signatures, said he accepted
the decision and was beginning a campaign to defeat the referendum.
Relations between the Venezuelan government and the private media continue
to be tense. President Chávez frequently attacks the private media,
which he accuses of promoting the political agenda of government opponents.
JUNE 27, 2004
Posted: July 2, 2004
Romelia Matute, Radio Nacional de Venezuela
Matute, a reporter for state-owned Radio Nacional de Venezuela (RNV),
was attacked and harassed by opposition supporters while covering campaign
activity by followers of President Hugo Chávez Frías in
Government sympathizers had set up two booths that morning in a park in
the Caracas neighborhood of Alto Prado to gather support ahead of the
August 15 recall referendum on Chávez and several opposition legislators,
according to local news reports. Opposition supporters congregated to
demand the government sympathizers leave, and police cordoned off the
Matute arrived around 12:30 p.m., interviewing government followers before
walking to the other side of the police cordon to interview opposition
supporters, she told CPJ. As she was interviewing an opposition sympathizer,
she said, other opposition supporters approached, pulling her press credentials
and tape recorder. A woman grabbed Matute's hair from behind and threw
her to the ground.
In pain, Matute said she went to the pro-government booths to rest. After
she called RNV and was given permission to go home, she said, she was
blocked from leaving by opposition supporters who had encircled the booths.
She finally left around 3 p.m. and, that evening, filed a complaint with
the Prosecutor General's Office.
The next day, she went to a hospital, where doctors found she had suffered
whiplash and prescribed 21 days of rest, during which she was to wear
a cervical collar.
AUGUST 11, 2004
Posted: August 24, 2004
Tony Vergara, Globovisión
Juan Camacho, Globovisión
Ana Karina Villalba, Globovisión
José Umbría, Globovisión
Ademar Dona, Globovisión
Government supporters attacked Tony Vergara and Juan Camacho, technicians
for the 24-hour news channel Globovisión, after they had finished
covering a meeting in Caracas on the recall referendum. Villalba, Umbría
and Dona, the other members of the Globovisión news team, were
threatened and harassed in the same incident
Villalba, a reporter, said they preparing to leave after the meeting between
government officials and international observers from the Carter Center
at the vice president's office in downtown Caracas.
Umbría, a cameraman, and Dona, an assistant, got inside their car
with Villalba. As Vergara and Camacho got inside a second vehicle about
half a block away, a group of 15 to 20 government supporters pointed guns
at them. The attackers smashed the car's windows and windshield, and punctured
its tires. They ordered Vergara and Camacho out of the car, beat them,
and pepper-sprayed them.
The attackers took Vergara and Camacho's personal belongings, including
gold chains, identification cards, and the vehicle's radio transmitter,
which the news team used to communicate with Globovisión headquarters.
When Villalba and Umbría tried to record the attack, they were
threatened and told to keep their camera away. Because of the threats,
Villalba said, the news team left the scene.
Vergara and Camacho were taken to a hospital where they were treated for
minor injuries and released.
Although their vehicle was not marked with the Globovisión logo,
Vergara and Camacho's shirts had the Globovisión logo and both
carried press credentials, Villalba said. Similarly, the other vehicle
was not marked, but the journalists had press identification.
Globovisión filed a complaint with the Prosecutor's General's Office,
according to Villalba.
SEPTEMBER 1, 2004
Posted: September 17, 2004
Mauro Marcano, Radio Maturín, El Oriental
Marcano, a radio host and columnist, was shot dead by unidentified attackers
at around 7 a.m. in his apartment building's parking lot in the city of
Maturín, the capital of eastern Monagas State, according to local
news reports. Next to his body, police found his handgun, which he had
apparently reached for to defend himself, the country's Attorney General's
office has stated.
Marcano hosted the radio show "De frente con el pueblo" (Facing the People),
broadcast daily from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. by Radio Maturín. In addition,
he wrote a weekly column titled "Sin bozal" (Without Muzzle) for the Maturín-based
daily El Oriental.
At the time of his murder, Marcano was also a municipal councilman for
the regional political movement Fuerza Monaguense. Before joining Fuerza
Monaguense, he had long been involved in politics with the Movement toward
Justo Estaba Millán, Radio Maturín's press coordinator,
said that Marcano had hosted his show at Radio Maturín for about
four years. According to Estaba, Marcano aggressively denounced drug trafficking
and police corruption. Estrella Velandia, El Oriental's director,
told CPJ that Marcano's columns discussed drug trafficking, contract killings,
and police corruption. Velandia said that in the past, police have been
able to capture drug traffickers based on information from Marcano's reports
According to Velandia, Marcano said he was used to living with threats
and knew how to defend himself.
In one of several topics he covered in his last column, published on August
31, Marcano said there was a rumor that police had confiscated 11 kilos
of cocaine in a recent bust instead of the 4 kilos they had reported.
If the rumors proved true, Marcano said, then police should account for
the missing amount of cocaine.
The day of his murder, Marcano was supposed to appear on a noon show at
regional television channel Televisora de Oriente (TVO) to discuss recent
invasions of privately owned land by landless families, according to TVO
journalist Yolimar Bastidas.
CPJ continues to monitor this case to determine if Marcano was killed
for his journalistic work.