Miami (January 30, 2009).—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed great concern and its sympathy for news media executives in Venezuela after the leader of a local pro-government paramilitary group issued a death threat against them in a recent interview with a Spanish newspaper.
In statements to El País on January 26 Valentín Santana, leader of La Piedrita (Little Rock) group, admitted carrying out tear-gas attacks on the studios of television station Globovisión on January 1 and then on the home of Marcel Granier, director of the privately-owned RCTV channel, on January 2 and 19, declaring, “If they come after us, you can be sure that we will execute them. If we get ahold of, for example, Marcel Granier we'll gun him down without a second thought.”
IAPA President Enrique Santos Calderón, editor of the Bogotá, Colombia, newspaper El Tiempo, said he was appalled at the impunity the group enjoyed and the lack of protection surrounding the news media just weeks following the murder of journalist Orel Sambrano (January 16) and attack on Rafael Finol (January 13), incidents which are now under investigation.
“The government mustn’t permit either violence or statutory criminal offense; its duty is to protect all citizens and ensure the free practice of journalism,” Santos declared.
La Piedrita's leader also threatened the editor of El Nacional newspaper, Miguel Henrique Otero, and Globovisión’s director, Alberto Federico Ravell, who, along with Granier had been declared “military objectives” by his group. “They are out in the open conspiring against the Bolivarian revolution and we've had enough of their insulting our president,” Santana asserted.
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, said, “We trust that the Venezuelan government will know how to call for calm among its supporters who are operating outside the law, in its name, and who are attacking anyone who disagrees with them and doesn't toe the line. That's the only way in a democracy you can ensure the physical safety of citizens who oppose the party in power.”