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Reporters assaulted, threatened and robbed after violent takeover of the Venezuelan National Assembly

At least six journalists were victims of different attacks after a pro-government group violently entered the Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) on Oct. 23, according to freedom of expression organization Espacio Público.

Dome of the National Congress, National Assembly in Venezuela (Photo: LuisCarlos Díaz is licensed under CC By 2.0)

The special session of the AN that occurred on Sunday was one of the most important, according to Efecto Cocuyo. There were different issues on the agenda, like the breakdown of constitutional order, the denunciation of State institutions before international courts, the appointment of new judges of the Supreme Court as well as the National Electoral Council, the start of impeachment proceedings against President Nicolás Maduro and revelations about the alleged Colombian nationality of the president, among others.

However, at about 1:30 p.m. when lawmakers had spent at least two hours in session, a group of supporters of the ruling party who were outside the AN entered the Capitol grounds abruptly and violently, “and some entered the chamber by force, to protest in favor of the National Government,” Efecto Cocuyo reported.

Some of the people were able to reach not only the seating areas of top parliamentarians, but also the press area. Some journalists were subsequently robbed and assaulted.

For example, the Telecaribe team, comprised of reporter Gregory Jaimes and the producer Yamel Rincón, said it was robbed at gunpoint. As was reported, one of the men who entered the AN pointed his gun at Rincón and forced her to give up three bulletproof vests, while calling her a “dissident.”

A Globovisión team was robbed of a camera, according to Espacio Público. The organization said that the camera was smashed on the ground and stolen, but that neither the channel nor the reporter reported about what happened. They continued covering the session via telephone.

Through his Twitter account, Osmary Hernández, correspondent for CNN en Español, reported that members of the group tried to steal his cell phone and the camera being used to cover the event. However, other journalists stopped this from happening.

Journalist Andreina Flores, correspondent of Radio Francia and RCN Radio of Colombia, was threatened by a man who was part of the group that was outside the AN. “Andreina, today you will fall; Andreina, this is your end,” the man told her, according to Espacio Público.

“It concerned me that they called me by name, because we always receive general threats from chavismo, but not like this,” the journalist told Espacio Público. (Chavismo is a political ideology made popular by late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and espoused by current President Maduro.)

Oswaldo Rivero, communicator of official media outlet Venezolana de Televisión who was part of the group that entered the AN, was hit on the head and received a wound, Espacio Público said.

Outside the Assembly and before the violent entrance, journalist Luis Gonzalo Pérez of Caraota Digital was threatened by a man who identified himself as “colectivo” (a supporter of the ruling party) who also said “you know you cannot be here,” Espacio Público added.

“You know that Caraota Digital is [in trouble] with the government,” the man told the reporter, according to the organization. The man continued to threaten him to get him to leave because “when they enter, it will get worse.”

After parliamentarians aligned with the ruling party were able to calm things down and the groups left, the session continued. With an opposition majority, the AN approved the Agreement for the Restitution for the Constitutional Order of Venezuela, which among other things, provides for the possibility of impeaching Maduro, according to BBC Mundo.

The National Association of Press Workers (SNTP for its acronym in Spanish) reported some of the attacks against journalists and urged authorities to investigate the cases and to guarantee that journalists can work freely.

Marco Ruiz, secretary general of the SNTP, announced that he would denounce the attacks against the journalists before the public prosecutor on Oct. 24. "We condemn the violence, the ignorance of the institutions and the responsibility of the mayor [of Caracas] Jorge Rodríguez," Ruiz said according to news site Runrunes.

Journalists were recently allowed to report from the AN starting on Jan. 5, 2016 after six years of being expelled from the site.  The ban was imposed in 2009, but journalists were able to return with the arrival of a new majority opposition in the AN.


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