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Argentine journalist Jorge Lanata barred from entering Venezuela ahead of Constituent Assembly vote

Well-known Argentine journalist Jorge Lanata was detained for eight hours and barred from entering Venezuela ahead of a controversial vote for a Constituent Assembly that will write a new constitution for the country.

The host of Sunday program Periodismo Para Todos (Journalism for Everyone) on Channel 13 said he was held by eight heavily armed members of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin for its acronym in Spanish), Todo Noticias reported. The journalist and his producer, Martina Perdiguero, were deported to Panama because they were not authorized by the Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information (Minci) to report in the country, according to Clarín.

Photo of Jorge Lanata By Brianjmolina (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Lanata told Todo Noticias that one of the Sebin members told him shortly before they were released and escorted onto the plane: "From above they tell you that this is not a colony.”

The journalist also said he would probably find another way to explain what’s going on in Caracas in order to show the phenomenon of Venezuelans leaving for Colombia. According to Todo Noticias, he will continue reporting on Venezuela from the Colombian border.

The Association of Argentine Journalistic Entities (Adepa) condemned Lanata’s deportation. “[Adepa] considers it extremely serious that the access of journalists to a country to cover a news event is limited,” the organization said in a press release. “This measure violates democratic standards and is a new sign of the extreme deterioration of human rights and freedom of expression in Venezuela.”

This is the second time that Lanata has been detained in Venezuela, according to El Trece, as Channel 13 is known in Argentina. In October 2012, Lanata and his team were interrogated upon entering the country and detained by Sebin upon leaving. At the time, it was reported that their journalistic material had been erased. He was in the country to report on the presidential election between Hugo Chávez and Henrique Capriles.

This Sunday, July 30, the country will hold an election for the National Constituent Assembly called by President Nicolas Maduro. The members of this assembly will be charged with creating a new constitution and will have the ability to dissolve state institutions. In a referendum called by the opposition-majority National Assembly on July 16, the group said 98 percent of more than 7.1 million voters rejected the constituent assembly.

The day Lanata was deported, July 27, was the second day of a 48-hour strike called by the opposition to boycott the constituent assembly elections. The opposition called for renewed protests ahead of the vote as the death toll related to demonstrations rose and authorities ordered security measures to prohibit political protests, as the AP reported.

Also on July 26, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 13 current and former Venezuelan government officials. According to The Hill, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC, “specifically went after those involved with the upcoming election and the alleged violent suppression of protests, corruption and currency manipulation.” President Donald Trump threatened further economic action if the government goes ahead with the vote. In response, Maduro said he would not recognize any sanction from the U.S.

The Press and Society Institute (IPYS) of Venezuela is warning of threats to freedom of expression in the lead up to the vote. It reported 22 cases of violations of freedom of expression from July 24 to July 27. Most of the cases were due to actions from the Bolivarian National Guard, the organization said.

IPYS Venezuela also said 17 foreign correspondents have been deported from the country between 2016 and 2017.

Most recently, Venezuelan human rights organization Provea reported on June 28 that Paulo Paranuaga, a Brazilian journalist for French newspaper Le Monde, was expelled from Venezuela upon attempting to enter the country.

Through different Tweets, the organization reported that the Venezuelan government denied him his accreditation as a journalist and for that reason he had been expelled. "The Ministry that never answers says that they do not have my accreditation," Paranuaga told the organization.


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