11 Venezuelan journalists detained, press group says

At the end of its midyear meeting in Barbados the Inter American Press Association Wednesday expressed “its solidarity with the people of Venezuela, the victims and their families and the news media and journalists beset by violence” and deplored the kidnapping of journalist Nairobi Pinto, whose whereabouts are unknown.

Ms. Pinto, chief correspondent of the Globovisión television chain, was abducted  Sunday outside the apartment building where she lives by at least two armed and hooded assailants who forced her into a vehicle. So far neither police not her family have received any news.

The organization Monday reviewed the state of press freedom in the Americas. On the case of Venezuela the organization stressed that “the independent press and journalists are facing their most dramatic moment, marked by a pattern of unprecedented institutional and social violence.” According to local press organizations since the start of protests on Feb. 12 a total of 111 journalists have been arrested, threatened, beaten or injured. In some cases their equipment has been seized and their newsgathering material destroyed.

The chairman of the press association Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared, “Given the difficult situation of danger and violence being faced by our Venezuelan colleagues the journalist’s disappearance cannot be overlooked. We urge the authorities to make every effort to locate Pinto’s whereabouts.”

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, added that during its April 4 to 7 meeting in Bridgetown, the association issued country-by-country resolutions on major issues, among them one on Venezuela which detailed the violations of freedom of the press and of expression in the South American country.

In speaking of Costa Rica, the association said that the most significant violation of press freedom, the newspaper Diario Extra reported that the special prosecutor for organized crime had ordered a trace on all incoming and outgoing phone calls of journalist Manuel Rodríguez Estrada, known as Manuel Estrada, as well as the calls of other journalists and staff members for the newspaper.

The Judicial Police and prosecutor ordered the tracings to identify the public officials who were providing information to the journalist, who, on the basis of this information, revealed matters of great public interest, the association noted.

Using the results of the tracings, criminologists and analysts at the narcotics section of the judicial police identified some 20 judicial employees with whom the journalist had communicated by phone, and police intelligence agents identified them as the source for news items written and disseminated by the journalist, the association said.

A judicial employee was detained and charged with revealing secrets and revealing confidential information. Her arrest had a chilling effect on many other informants who, for fear of reprisal, were reluctant to provide information of public interest, said the association.

The story was reported extensively in Costa Rica, and Diario Extra eventually obtained a Sala IV constitutional court ruling that such tracing was unconstitutional.

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