Venezuelan press union denounces US reporter’s arrest

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Caracas, March 7 (IANS) Venezuela’s National Press Workers Union (SNTP) on Wednesday said that a journalist from the US and his Venezuelan assistant had been arrested.

The union said on Twitter that Cody Weddle, reporting from Venezuela for Miami television station WPLG Local 10, and Carlos Camacho were arrested on early Wednesday when military counterintelligence personnel raided their residences and seized their work equipment and other material.

The union reports that, according to neighbours, Weddle’s home was searched “allegedly with an order signed by a military court.”

“With the arrest of Cody Weddle and Carlos Camacho, there are 36 cases of journalists and press workers imprisoned by @NicolasMaduro so far in 2019,” the SNTP said, referring to Venezuela’s embattled president, reports Efe.

Three of those newspersons remain in custody, according to the union.

Local 10 said earlier that it had received unconfirmed reports claiming that Venezuelan officials arrived early Wednesday at the 29-year-old Weddle’s home and took him away.

“We are working through various channels to get as much information as we can and to see that Cody is released,” station president and CEO E.R. Bert Medina said in a statement.

“Cody has been dedicated and committed to telling the story in Venezuela to our viewers here in South Florida. The arrest of a journalist doing his job is outrageous and unacceptable.”

The US State Department on Wednesday called on the Venezuelan government to “immediately” release Weddle.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Kimberley Breier said on Twitter: “@StateDept is aware of and deeply concerned with reports that another US journalist has been detained in #Venezuela by #Maduro, who prefers to stifle the truth rather than face it. Being a journalist is not a crime. We demand the journalist’s immediate release, unharmed.”

Last week, a team from Hispanic Univision network was detained for more than two hours at the Miraflores presidential palace after an interview with Maduro.

Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos and his production team, who were deported the day after their detention, reported that Venezuelan authorities stole their equipment and footage of the interview with Maduro.

Reports of journalists being arrested in the South American country have increased ever since the political crisis in Venezuela worsened in January with the decision of the speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaido, to proclaim himself acting president contending that Maduro’s re-election was illegitimate.

In January alone, the SNTP has blamed Maduro’s regime for 40 attacks on journalists, including the arrests of 19 workers, including four people working for Efe.

The Maduro government says that the press, particularly foreign outlets, is mounting “media campaigns” against him and accuses them of lying about the situation in Venezuela.

Meanwhile, Guaido on Wednesday said that the expulsion of German Ambassador Daniel Kriener, a move ordered by the Maduro government, was a “threat” by a “regime” that lacked legal authority.

“Today, the regime, which is usurping power, which lacks the authority to declare anyone persona no grata, is simply engaging in coercion, it’s just a threat, and that’s how it should be taken by the free world, against an ambassador and a country … that has provided much in the way of humanitarian aid,” Guaido said.

–IANS

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