08 August 2013

IAPA calls for release of Venezuelan publisher and assurance of due process

Miami (August 7, 2013)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today demanded the immediate release of the president of the 6to Poder media group, Leocenis García, whose arrest and freezing of his bank accounts led to the shutdown of the group’s main newspaper, and it asked the Venezuelan government to respect legal guarantees and ensure due process. The IAPA also requested that there be guarantees for the right to work and for the free dissemination of information to all the 6to Poder employees and journalists. Yesterday eight employees of the group began a hunger strike outside the Caracas offices of the Organization of American States (OAS) demanding the release of the bank accounts, which caused the “forced closure” of the media outlet. Alberto Rodríguez Palencia, editor of the 6to Poder weekly newspaper, announced on Monday in Caracas that “following the financial asphyxia that the Maduro government implemented through its legislators, ordering the freezing of the 6to Poder Group bank accounts, today we find ourselves forced to close the doors of this media outlet because we cannot meet the payroll and other service needs, nor the printing of the newspaper.” García has been in jail since July 30th following accusations by government party members in Congress about matters related to money laundering, corruption and unlawful enrichment, although the authorities have not presented any evidence against him. Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, expressed surprise and distrust at the way the authorities had acted, considering that detention in a military installation, as in this case at the Military Anti-Intelligence General Directorate (DGCM), tends to be a way to intimidate and harass victims. He felt also that García “could be investigated or put on trial by fair civil judges, guarantors of justice, without being incarcerated.” Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, made the customary IAPA assertion in cases of legal proceedings involving journalists, urging the government and the justice system to employ “transparency and assurances of due process.” The lack of clarity in the accusations, the location and manner in which García was being detained, as well as the critical stand of the media outlet against those in power are elements that the IAPA is weighing in this case, especially due to the fact that the Venezuelan government has already shut down other news media in reprisal for their editorial stance. Rodríguez Palencia said that 6to Poder would keep its Web site active for 10 more days. He declared that “it is not the voice of a publisher that is being silenced but that of a media outlet” and attributed the accusations to “persecution” because of the weekly’s critical editorial stance. The 6to Poder Group is made up of the weekly 6to Poder, , the daily newspaper El Comercio, the online 6topoder.com, the magazine U-Sex and the survey taker 6to Poder Datos. The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.