24 September 2013

IAPA calls on Venezuelan government to free Víctor Manuel García Hidalgo

Miami (September 24, 2013)—The government of Venezuela was urged today by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) to immediately release Víctor Manuel García Hidalgo, editor and publisher of the online news outlet Informe Cifra, from prison, where he has been held for the past six months. This past March, García Hidalgo was placed in a jail commonly used for the criminally accused, Yare III, although the Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office had charged him with committing the political crime of “citizen rebellion.” The charge originated from his  raised opinions on acts occurring on April 2002, following a coup d’etat. A photo in which he appears alongside the former opposition member Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Arias Cárdenas at the Army Command Headquarters has been used as evidence of his participation in the mutiny. His defense counsel says that his presence in the military installations was solely due to his search for information as a journalist. Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, asked that García Hidalgo “be guaranteed the rights to his physical integrity, equality before the law and due process.” He expressed his surprise and lack of confidence regarding the authorities’ decision to order García Hidalgo to be held in a cell for those accused of common crimes. Despite the political connotation of the facts alleged against him, his safety has been facing serious risk. He has been placed with seven people accused of common crimes, inside a 170-square-foot cell, and has not received the medical attention his delicate state of health requires. Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, felt that García Hidalgo “could be investigated or brought to trial in freedom, by civil court judges, with impartiality and guarantee of justice.” He argued that the fact that the reporter had remained in the country and had continued his work during these past 11 years “shows that one cannot operate on the presumption of fear of flight.” The lack of clarity concerning the accusations, the arrest and place of detention, along with the detainee’s dissident character are elements that the IAPA is evaluating in this case. It is also concerned with the Venezuelan government’s actions against other journalists and publications for their editorial line, as in the case of journalist and publisher Leocenis Garcia. Last week the IAPA also repeated a request to the Venezuelan government for legal guarantees and due process in favor of García, president of the editorial group Sexto Poder, imprisoned in a military jail since July 30 this year, a request that continues to go without response from the authorities of the South American country. 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. The IAPA Impunity Project is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and has the For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.