20 September 2013

Venezuelan government urged to observe due process

Miami (September 19, 2013)—The Venezuelan government was urged once again today by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) to observe due process and provide legal guarantees in favor of journalist and publisher Leocenis García, who has been held in a military compound since his arrest on July 30. García, president of the Sexto Poder editorial group, remains a prisoner in the basement of the Military Intelligence Unit in Caracas, in precarious health conditions. He was accused by a group of members of Congress of the governing party of money laundering, unlawful enrichment and tax avoidance. Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, declared that the García case “appears to be a political one, intentionally manipulated as a reprisal in order to silence dissent and criticism.” He added that the circumstances “the arrest was arbitrary, the charges were brought by members of Congress and a military compound is being used” send an undeniable message that the government is politically handling the situation. Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, reiterated the IAPA’s request to provide García the constitutional guarantee of equality before the law and due process. On September 16 the Caracas newspaper El Universal reported that García’s father had begun a hunger strike near Miraflores Palace, the headquarters of the government of President Nicolás Maduro, calling for an end to “the persecution of his son.” When the authorities arrested García they froze his bank accounts and those of the editorial group, causing a halt in publication of the weekly 6to Poder and the daily El Comercio from July 27 onwards. In addition to these newspapers the editorial group includes 6to Poder Radio, 6topoder.com, the magazine U-Sex and the survey taker 6to Poder Datos. García had already been accused on other occasions. In May 2011 a criminal investigation was put under way over the publication of a photo of an official member undergoing intensive therapy. In November of that year, he faced a criminal charge for a photo which showed in a satirical manner, women occupying public office, a matter that this year was taken up by a judge to restrict García’s possibility of purchasing a television channel. 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.