Venezuela - Activist arrested for attack on 12 journalists but polarisation persists



    MONTREAL, Aug. 17 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders notes the
rapid progress that has been made in the investigation into an attack on 12
journalists employed by the privately-owned Cadena Capriles press group on 13
August. The employee of a parastatal foundation was arrested two days later
and the prosecutor general's office said nine other people were being sought
on the basis of statements by victims and video and photos taken during the
attack.
    "We would like to express our full support for Cadena Capriles,"
Reporters Without Borders said. "At the same time, we note that the government
has demonstrated a desire to ensure that violence does not go unpunished in
this case, as it previously did in response to the 3 August armed attack on
the privately-owned TV station Globovisión, by arresting the activist Lina
Ron."
    The press freedom organisation added: "Unfortunately, the media situation
is extremely polarised as result of new controversial legislation and recent
closures (see 2 August press release), and we fear the government may be
losing control of the radical activists that claim to be its supporters. A
national debate involving people of all political views is more than ever
needed to address the issue of the media."
    The activist arrested on the evening of 15 August was Gabriel Uzcategui
Beaumont, 28, an employee of the Simón Rodriguez Foundation. He is suspected
of taking part in the violent attack on 12 Cadena Capriles journalists -
Octavio Hernandez, Manuel Alejandro alvarez, Gabriela Iribarren, Jesús
Hurtado, Marco Ruiz, Usbaldo Arrieta, Fernando Penalver, Marie Rondón, Greasi
Bolanos, Glexis Pastran, César Batiz and Sergio Moreno Gonzalez - eight of
whom were badly injured.
    The journalists were staging a peaceful demonstration in the centre of
Caracas against certain articles in a new education law concerning the media
when they were attacked by militants shouting accusations that they were
"defenders of the oligarchy." The media owned by the Cadena Capriles group
include Ultimas Noticias, Venezuela's leading daily.
    President Hugo Chavez condemned the attack without reservation in a
televised address shortly after Uzcategui's arrest. He also condemned the 3
August violence against Globovisión, although the station is openly critical
of him and he often accuses it of practicing "media terrorism" on the air (see
the 21 July press release).
    The government's latest media legislation is proving very controversial.
The national assembly recently rejected a bill that would have made media
crimes punishable by up to four years in prison. But, on 13 August, it passed
an education bill that incorporated some of the provisions of the previous
bill concerning the media and "public decency" and "mental health."




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4188, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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