Press freedom groups urge release of Venezuelan editor as his hunger strike continues

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF in French) asked on Nov. 15 for the immediate release of the editor of the 6to Poder, Leocenis García. García has been jailed since Aug. 30, and has been on a hunger strike since Nov. 9.

The groups expressed their concern for the journalist's health, who has already gone seven days without eating to claim his due process rights and the right to remain free during the trial.

"We cannot support García risking his health or life and therefore we insist that he abandon his hunger strike. Meanwhile, we denounce the absurd process and the undue use of preventative detention against a man who turned himself into the authorities. The manner in which he is being treated violates the most elemental legal rights, including the presumption of innocence," RSF announced.

IAPA President Milton Coleman said, "It's lamentable that a journalist has to go on a hunger strike to bring attention to the right to express an opinion about public officials." Coleman added, "The charges against 6to Poder carry the risk of encouraging self-censorship and to deprive the public, in a democracy, from expressing their opinions about their representatives. The people and the press, not the government, should decide when a commentary on the government crosses the line."

García was arrested after the publication of a controversial cover satirizing high-ranking female members of Chávez's administration. The cover allegedly incited hatred, insulting authorities and women. The satirical publication's circulation was frozen until a Venezuelan judge reversed the decision nine days later.