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Venezuelan intelligence agency detains Argentine journalist accused of spying

Argentine journalist Jorge Lanata claimed he was detained by agents of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN in Spanish) at the Caracas airport on Monday, Oct. 8, as he was about to board a flight home after covering Venezuela's presidential election on Sunday, Oct. 7, reported the International Freedom of Expression Exchange's website.

SEBIN accused the journalist of espionage along with the news team from Canal 13 and TN. The reporters were taken to an airport basement where their electronic equipment was seized, reported the newspaper El Nacional. After being detained for two hours, the reporters were released only to find their footage from the elections had been erased, added the newspaper.

After his arrival in Argentina, Lanata criticized his country's ambassador to Venezuela, Carlos Cheppi, who denied the journalist's arrest and accused him of "provoking" the authorities by publishing a report on the supposed enrichment of President Chávez, reported the newspaper La Nación. "It's a disgrace that the Argentine ambassador is more an ambassador for Chávez. It's shameful he didn't defend us," Lanata told the newspaper.

The Argentine Journalism Fourm (FOPEA) urged the Argentine government to bring a formal protest to the Venezuelan government "for harassment, monitoring, arbitrary detention and intentional destruction of personal and journalistic material," according to a press release. FOPEA said that, according to its sources in Venezuela, the event consisted of a series of inadmisible attitudes that do not reflect routine practice in the country, as the authorities suggest.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) decried the detention and called on Venezuelan authorities to "show full tolerance for the unfettered exercise of press freedom," the group posted on its website. “It is regrettable that the press that openly exercises its right to express itself and report on matters that are of national and international public interest is intimidated,” said the chairman of IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme.


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