Venezuela leads Latin America with the most journalists jailed because of their work, according to CPJ

Three journalists in Venezuela and a blogger in Brazil are among at least 251 journalists jailed around the world in relation to their work.

The Helicoide building in Caracas, where Billy Six is being held (Damián D. Fossi Salas [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its annual report on imprisoned journalists on Dec. 13 and found that the last three years had the highest numbers globally since the organization first began tracking the data.

The latest case in Latin America is that of German journalist Billy Six, who was detained on Nov. 17 by officials with the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM, for its initials in Spanish) in the state of Falcón. He had been covering the economic and social crisis in Venezuela, including the mass migration, according to CPJ.

Six is now being held in the infamous Helicoide prison in Caracas, according to Espacio Público. The organization said he was charged for rebellion and espionage for "very closely" photographing President Nicolás Maduro. Six is now on hunger strike, requesting to speak with his family, the German embassy in Caracas and a civil lawyer, as well as results to a test for dengue, according to a letter he released through his parents, according to Espacio Público.

Also in Venezuela, Jesús Medina Ezaine, freelance photographer and journalist for Dólar Today, is being held in the Ramo Verde military prison ahead of his trial. He has been charged with money laundering, criminal association, incitement to hatred and obtaining illegal profit against acts of public administration, according to El Nacional.

He was detained on Aug. 29, 2018 at a Caracas subway station by agents with the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service. A Peruvian journalist who witnessed the detention said in a video posted by the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) that Medina was helping her and a colleague with investigative reporting. As pointed out by CPJ, the head of the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Body (CICPC) said an arrest warrant was processed for “simulation of a punishable act,” after the journalist reported being abducted in November 2017, according to El Universal. Authorities claimed their investigations showed the abduction did not happen.

“CPJ could not determine when the arrest warrant was issued or why the court’s charges did not include a reference to the false kidnapping allegation,” the organization reported.

Chilean-Venezuelan journalist Braulio Jatar has been under house arrest since May 2017. Prior to that, he was held in jail for almost nine months. Officially, he is charged with money laundering after authorities claim they found US $25,000 and 19,000 Bolivars (about US $1,900) in his vehicle. However, his arrest came one day after images of a protest against President Nicolás Maduro were published to Reporte Confidencial, the site he directs. No trial date has been set as of late 2018, according to CPJ, which notes that Jatar is a lawyer and political activist, as well.

And in Brazil, blogger Paulo Cezar de Andrade Prado, also known as Paulinho, is serving a sentence for criminal defamation, CPJ reported. In a 2013 lawsuit, sports presenter Milton Neves accused Prado of defaming him on his blog, according to the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji). He also had an arrest warrant for a second defamation suit, but it has not gone to trial, according to CPJ.

CPJ called on Brazilian lawmakers to repeal criminal defamation laws.

“Defamation cases should be resolved in civil court and journalists like Paulo Cezar de Andrade Prado should not have to face jail time because of their work,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna, according to a release published Dec. 13.

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