Press group concerned at editor’s hunger strike

The Inter American Press Association has expressed concern for the health of Leocenis García, publisher of the Venezuelan weekly newspaper Sexto Poder, who has been on a hunger strike for the past six days at the Caracas headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service political police. García is requesting due legal processes and his release during court proceedings.

García turned himself in to face charges of public instigation to hatred, defamation of a public official, and a gender-based public violation due to the Aug. 21 publication in Sexto Poder of a satirical photo montage mocking several women who hold senior positions in President Hugo Chávez’s administration. García has remained in preventive custody since Aug. 30 at the offices of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service.

Milton Coleman, senior editor of The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., said “It is unfortunate that a journalist must go on a hunger strike to highlight the right to express opinions about public officials that hold public office thanks to the People, including journalists, who might have voted for them.” He is president of the Inter American Press Association.

Coleman added that “cases like the one involving Sexto Poder lead to self-censorship and deprive citizens from expressing their opinions about the individuals chosen to represent them in a democracy. It should be left to the people and the press, not to the government, to decide when opinions about government officials exceed the limit of what is appropriate.”

The Inter American Press Association also condemned the armed attack on the offices of the newspaper El Siglo de Torreón in Coahuila state that occurred early Tuesday

Executives of the newspaper said that at around 2:40 a.m., three people riding two automobiles parked their vehicles outside the building’s main door, set fire to one of cars, and began shooting at the building. No injuries were reported.

This was the third attack on the newspaper chain El Siglo. In 2009, El Siglo de Torreón and El Siglo de Durango plants were also shot at, causing damage and panic.

The La Laguna region, comprised by the states of Coahuila and Durango, has been ravaged by organized crime, leading to self-censorship due to attacks on media outlets, and threats, abduction and the murder of journalists, the press organization said.

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