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Journalists injured in ongoing political conflict

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 29 February and 1 March 2004, two photographers and one television reporter were injured, another two reporters were threatened and assaulted and a photojournalist's camera was taken from him. The journalists and photographers were covering protests by opposition supporters demanding that the National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE) call a referendum on President Hugo Chávez's leadership.

In Anaco municipality, central Anzoátegui state, a group of people presumed to be government supporters attacked Billy Castro, a photojournalist for "Impacto" newspaper. Several journalists came out in support of Castro when local residents reported the incident to the local chamber of commerce. According to information provided by journalists in Anaco, the government supporters took advantage of a weak security force presence to attack the journalists who were in the area. At least 10 people threw Castro to the ground and severely beat him. He was taken to a medical centre and received treatment.

On 1 March, Janeth Carrasquilla, a Globovisión television station correspondent, was injured in the head by a blunt object while she was covering a confrontation between opposition demonstrators and National Guard officers. The incident occurred in the city of Valencia, Carabobo state, north central Venezuela. Carrasquilla received medical treatment and was told to rest, which prevented her from continuing her journalistic work.

In Caracas, on 1 March, Globovisión journalist Johnny Figarrella had a gun pointed at him while he was covering an opposition demonstration that ended in violence. Figarrella was also hit in the chest with a tear gas canister.

"El Nacional" newspaper photojournalist Henry Delgado's camera was confiscated by National Guard officers while he was covering an opposition demonstration in the Terrazas del Ávila area, in the eastern part of Caracas. In addition, National Guard officers in Terrazas del Ávila took "El Nacional" journalist Edgar López's notebook. López was also subjected to insults and was hit in the head and chest by Chávez supporters. Delgado was also assaulted.

On 29 February, in Caracas's Altamira plaza, Juan Baretto, an Agence France-Presse (AFP) photojournalist, was injured. A bullet hit him in the chest, bounced off his bullet-proof vest and hit him in the hand. A young opposition supporter fired the shot.

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