Venezuelan journalist is accused in anti-terrorism court in his country after crossing border with Colombia

Venezuelan journalist Mario Peláez was released on March 3, four days after the National Guard detained him at the Colombia-Venezuela border and then handed him over to the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin, for its initials in Spanish), according to the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) of Venezuela.

Peláez, editor-in-chief of newspaper El Caribazo of Nueva Esparta off the northern coast of Venezuela, is accused of instigation of public order and will have to appear in court every eight days, SNTP reported. He was presented in an anti-terrorism court.

There is nothing in the proceedings that binds or links the journalist Mario Peláez to acts of terrorism. Let the world know that @NiocolasMaduro (sic) tests a new form of harassment and silencing of the press,” the SNTP wrote via Twitter.

The journalist was detained along with three others, including a regional leader of the Voluntad Popular party, in the state of Táchira, as reported by El Nacional. The newspaper added that they were returning to the country through the Santander bridge, which connects Colombia and Venezuela. There was an effort to bring international humanitarian aid into Venezuela through the Colombian border on Feb. 23.

"Regrettably, his detention responds to what has become a policy of the Venezuelan State: judicial cases, censorship and persecution of journalists and the media," Edgar Cardenas, general secretary of the National Association of Journalists (CNP) of Caracas, told the Knight Center, concerning Peláez.

SNTP recorded 34 detentions of journalists and press workers in the country this year. Both local and foreign journalists have been detained in the country, with the most recent high-profile case being that of Univision journalist Jorge Ramos and team. The media professionals were held at the Miraflores Palace for almost three hours after President Nicolás Maduro left in the middle of an interview with the veteran journalist, according to Univision.

Not all detentions are short-term. In a report released at the end of 2018 by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Venezuela ranked highest in the Americas for the number of journalists jailed in relation to their work.

German journalist Billy Six has been in detention in the Helicoide prison since Nov. 17. “He was charged for rebellion and espionage before a military court for ‘very closely’ photographing Nicolás Maduro,” organization Espacio Público reported at the time.

Jesús Medina Ezaine, Venezuelan freelance photographer and journalist for Dólar Today, is in the Ramo Verde military prison and 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 while helping foreign colleagues with an investigative report, as one of those journalists said at the time.

And Chilean-Venezuelan journalist Braulio Jatar was released into house arrest in May 2017 after almost nine months in jail. He is officially charged with money laundering – which came after the website he directs posted images of a protest against Maduro.

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