A member of the National Bolivarian Guard (the national army) deliberately fired on three clearly identified journalists during a student demonstration in the Caracas district of Palos Grandes on 14 May.
Mildred Manrique of the Diario 2001 newspaper, freelancer Gabriela González and Johana Álvarez, a reporter for the Mexico’s Cadena 3 TV channel, were insulted and then fired on. González’s mobile phone in her pocket deflected the shot that would have hit her leg. Manrique was hit in the foot.
Supported by organizations that defend journalists, including the National Association of Journalists and the Venezuelan Journalists Union, the three journalists filed a complaint with the prosecutor general.
This was the fourth time Manrique has been threatened or attacked in the past three months.
Members of the Bolivarian National Police threatened her while she was covering a demonstration on 18 February. She was hit and tear-gassed during a demonstration two days later. In March, she was detained for a night on suspicion of terrorism on the basis of the bullet-proof vests, teargas masks and computers that were found in a search of her apartment – equipment that proved useful in a her latest run-in with the authorities.
“We condemn these disgraceful acts of aggression just a month after the start of an investigation into alleged acts of torture and mistreatment by 97 members of the armed forces and national police since the start of the uprising,” said Camille Soulier, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk.
“Clear instructions must be given to the security forces about the safety of journalists covering demonstrations. The authorities must recognize the importance of their role and their safety, which was emphasized in a resolution that the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted on 28 March.”
The Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), an NGO that defends media personnel, has meanwhile reported that Jonathan Manzano, a reporter for the Correo del Caroní newspaper, was threatened by masked individuals who mistook him for a journalist with state-owned VTV.
Reporters Without Borders points out that both the police and demonstrators should respect the work of journalists, regardless of the editorial policies of the news media they work for.
Venezuela is ranked 116th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Photo: Mildred Manrique, Diario 2001