Just three weeks after Venezuelan journalists managed to return to the country’s National Assembly (AN, for its initials in Spanish) to carry out their work, a member of a colectivo (groups aligned with the government of Nicolás Maduro) hit a cameraman and some congress members, as members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) looked on and did not intervene, as local media reported.
The aggression against the cameraman of Venezolanos por la Información (VPI TV) José Luis Rangel took place after the June 25 session, as reported by the site Runrun.es. The member of the colectivo shouted at Rangel "I'm going for you and for the cameras," as can be seen in a video posted on the Twitter account of the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP). Then, with an armored helmet, he broke the journalist’s tripod, Efecto Cocuyo reported.
Before this aggression, the member of the colectivo argued with a congress member from the ruling party who began attending the sessions of the AN starting on May 15 after recognizing its legitimacy, reported Efecto Cocuyo. After insults and spitting, the colectivo member broke glass on the parliamentarian's van with the same armored helmet, the site added.
The colectivo member then went against the press and that was when he attacked Rangel, as seen in the video. A group of congress members defended the cameraman, an event in which the congresswoman Nora Bracho was hit, Efecto Cocuyo added.
#AlertaSNTP | "Voy por ti y por tu cámara", le gritó un colectivo al camarógrafo de @VPITV, José Luis Rangel, en el momento en que grababa como este hombre partía los vidrios de una de las camionetas de seguridad del Parlamento. #25Jun
El equipo de trabajo resultó dañado. pic.twitter.com/4yOy7vXHCB
— SNTP (@sntpvenezuela) June 25, 2019
“The National Guard is here to prevent journalists from passing, but not for these colectivos to pass,” said Bracho, according to Runrunes, which added that by defending the communicator, the congresswoman ended up having small bruises on her hands. The site added that the colectivo member was taken by one of the military members after that aggression.
Espacio Público, an NGO that defends press freedom, condemned the attack and demanded protection from the authorities.
“The State must pay special attention to the situation of those journalists who, due to the type of activities they carry out, are exposed to risks of extraordinary intensity, today's case is not an isolated incident and the officials in charge of security in the Legislative Federal Palace are responsible for the safety of journalists who are there,” Espacio Público said in a statement.
The aggression took place two days after the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, left Venezuela where she was invited by the Maduro government.
During her three-day visit, Bachelet met with Maduro and Juan Guaidó – opposition leader, president of the AN and whom at least 50 countries recognize as the interim president of Venezuela, reported BBC Mundo. She also heard from civil society, among them journalists who denounced threats to freedom of expression in the country, IPYS Venezuela reported.
The meeting that took place on June 20 was attended by the SNTP, IPYS Venezuela, Espacio Público and the National Association of Journalists. The organizations denounced "the patterns and practices of censorship, arbitrary detentions, obstacles to the work of journalists, as well as the risks for digital rights," IPYS added.