Globovisión journalist kidnapped amidst wave of violence in Venezuela

By Travis Knoll

Venezuelan journalist and Globovisión newsroom editor Nairobi Pinto was kidnapped by three masked and armed men on Sunday April, 5 news agency Venezuela Al Día reported.

She and another woman were coming home from the grocery store in Los Chaguaramos neighborhood in Caracas around 5 p.m. when the men appeared in a blue metal Chevrolet without a license plate and kidnapped, PInto's sister-in-law reported.

Her father, Luis Pinto, also a journalist, was confident that the police would find his daughter and hoped that the kidnappers would “think of their families” and have the “common sense” to return her. He also said that his daughter, who is also studying law, did not speak about any problems or threats beforehand that might be connected to the kidnapping.

Globovisión had been historically critical of the late-president Hugo Chavez, but last year the TV network was bought by a company more aligned with the chavista government.

Mr. Pinto  emphasized that his family is not rich, but middle class, and that the family was devastated by the kidnapping.  “How to feel when you don’t know where your daughter is, where she is? My hands and feet are tied.”

Globovisión says that their staff are working with the family to contact local security forces and that Venezuelans should be “responsible” in their use of social media, so as not to obstruct the work of the authorities and put Pinto in further danger, according to Argentine newspaper Clarín.

On Monday, journalists gathered at Pinto’s church to pray for her release. Marco Ruiz, president of the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) said that society should take an active role in the search and criticized the slow progress of the search.

“Society needs to take charge, to unite [to demand] respect for the life of all Venezuelans,” he said.

More than 48 hours after Pinto's disappearance, journalists from multiple networks, among them Globovisión, El Universal, El Nacional and Últimas Noticias, began an online campaign asking for Pinto's freedom. 

Clad in white, the reporters photographed themselves with signs featuring the hashtag "#LiberenANairobi", which has already spread through various social networks, especially Twitter.

So far there are no new leads on the reporter's disappearance, but Venezuelan authorities are not ruling anything out. According to El Nacional, there is a possibility of this crime being politically motivated, since the kidnapping could be a way to interrogate her on the activities of a friend of Pinto's, who is thought to be associated with an opposition party.

In the same way, members of President Nicolás Maduro's government have suggested that Pinto might have been kidnapped by members of the opposition. Miguel Rodríguez Torres, Interior Minister, told Unión Radio that it was suspicious that there had been violent barricades in that area, and previous kidnapping attempts as well as several robberies in the area. 

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.