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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

German journalist released after four months in detention in Venezuela



*This story has been updated to include that Six is now back in Germany.

Venezuelan officials released German journalist Billy Six on March 15 after he spent four months in detention.

Six was given orders to present himself before the court every 15 days and cannot speak about the case to the media, according to freedom of expression organization Espacio Público.

However, Six left Venezuela and is in back in Germany, according to Deutsche Welle (DW). After his release, the journalist was permitted to leave the country, but was not deported, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

In Berlin, both Six and his father criticized the German government's handling of the case, the AP added. However, the father, Edward Six, thanked the Russian foreign minister for his help in getting the journalist released, according to the news agency.

Detained since November 17, 2018, Six was being held in the headquarters for the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin, for its initials in Spanish) at the Helicoide.

He is accused of espionage, breach of security zones and rebellion, according to a denunciation Espacio Público said it made to the Superior Prosecutor’s Office of the Public Ministry of the Metropolitan Area of Caracas. The organization said Six is accused of taking photos of military parades, but that they were accessible to the public. He is also accused of meeting with members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for his reporting, according to the organization. Finally, he is accused of taking a photo of President Nicolás Maduro, but the organization said he was behind a security fence in a public area.

Espacio Público wrote that in a Feb. 3, 2019 letter, Six complained of an absence of sunlight, invasion of privacy, among other adverse conditions in detention. He also requested to meet with his lawyer and to call his family.

Earlier on March 15, DW Español Tweeted that Six had started a hunger strike. The journalist previously entered other hunger strikes regarding his detention.

Six was reporting on the Venezuelan crisis. According to DW, his work appears in right-wing publications, including Junge Freiheit and Deutschland-Magazin.

He was one of two journalists currently detained in Venezuela for prolonged periods of time.

Journalist Jesús Medina is at Ramo Verde military prison facing charges of laundering, criminal association, incitement to hatred and obtaining illegal profit against acts of public administration, according to El Nacional. He was detained while with a Peruvian reporter he was assisting with an investigative report. He previously was detained during a reporting trip to the Aragua Pentientiary Center. One month later, he went missing for two days. He said at the time that he had been tortured and threatened with death.

Other journalists have been detained for shorter periods of time.

Most recently, journalist Luis Carlos Díaz was released on March 12 after several hours in detention, and later charged with public incitement. In addition to not being able to leave Venezuela, he must present himself before the courts every eight days.

Journalist Mario Peláez was released on March 3, four days after being detained at the Colombia-Venezuela border, and charged with instigation of public order.

The National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) of Venezuela said there have been 40 arbitrary detentions of journalists so far in 2019.



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