New York, February 9, 2009--In an interview published on Friday, the leader of the Venezuelan pro-government group La Piedrita took responsibility for a series of attacks against local journalists and media outlets, and threatened to attack the 24-hours news channel Globovisión and RCTV Director Marcel Granier. The Committee to Protect Journalists called today on Venezuelan authorities to investigate the allegations and to immediately bring those responsible for the attacks to justice.
In its February 6 edition, the Venezuelan weekly Quinto Día published an extended interview with Valentín Santana, leader of La Piedrita, detailing the pro-government group's political stand and its past actions. In the interview, Santana threatened to "take up arms" against Granier and Globovisión, accusing them of promoting violence against Venezuelan Pesident Hugo Chávez.
Granier issued a statement the same day calling on local authorities to detain Santana. Over the weekend, Chávez condemned Santana's declarations and said La Piedrita's actions could be defined as "terrorism," according to Venezuelan news reports. According to El Universal, Chávez ordered Santana's detention on Sunday; he has not yet been detained.
Valentín also took responsibility for several attacks with
tear gas over the last five months: against the
"We commend President Chávez's public condemnation of this group and its attacks on the Venezuelan media," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "We now call on him to translate those words into action by thoroughly investigating the shocking allegations made by Valentín Santana last week, and bringing all those responsible for the attacks to justice."
On the morning of September 23, unidentified individuals tossed tear gas canisters outside
Globovisión's offices in
On December 1, unidentified individuals
threw similar pamphlets and several tear gas canisters in front of a
Tension between Chávez supporters and his critics has been on the rise in the lead-up to a February 15 popular referendum in which Venezuelans will decide whether Chávez and other public officials will be able to run for indefinite reelection. On October 6, CPJ sent Chávez a letter expressing concern over recent violence and intimidation against the Venezuelan media.
In May 2007, RCTV, the country's oldest private television, went off the air after the Venezuelan government made an unprecedented decision not to renew its broadcast concession. RCTV Internacional launched a paid subscription service via cable and satellite on July 16, 2007, which continues to offer critical programming.
Rising violence in the country is also affecting the
Venezuelan press. Although deadly violence against the media is rare in