Venezuelan journalist who went missing after publishing report on irregularities in prison is found alive

Update (Nov. 7): Journalist Jesús Medina was found alive the night of Nov. 6 on a highway between Caracas and La Guaira. The journalist was semi naked and had suffered severe blows to his face and body, El Nacional reported.

Through his Twitter account, Medina said he was tortured and threatened with death. He thanked the press, his colleagues and all those who pressured for him to be found. "I was born again to continue reporting the truth and to fight more for my country, Venezuela," Medina wrote, adding that he was currently being sheltered.

The journalist also stated that starting with his abduction on Nov. 4 until a few hours before his release, he remained in a dark room, hooded and tied up, where he was beaten by his captors. He also said he did not know if the perpetrators behind his disappearance belong to political, armed or organized crime forces, EFE reported.

Original (Nov. 6): A Venezuelan journalist who was detained while reporting a story at Tocorón prison in October has been missing since Nov. 4, according to various Venezuelan media outlets.

Jesús Medina, reporter for Dolar Today in Caracas, denounced on Nov. 1 through Twitter that threats had been made against himself and his family for publishing the report on irregularities in the Aragua Penitentiary Center, known as the Tocorón prison.

He published the report “The underworld of Tocorón” (El Submundo que se vive en Tocorón) on Oct. 30, in which he said the prison is totally dominated by criminal leaders imprisoned there, and that neither the guards nor the State have control over what happens there.

Several of his colleagues distributed via Twitter an alert Medina sent at the time of his disappearance at 6 p.m. on Nov. 4, in which he said: “They grabbed me, urgent.” His relatives still do not know his whereabouts, according to site Caraota Digital.

The National Union of Press Workers of Venezuela (SNTP for its acronym in Spanish) blamed the government for Medina’s disappearance. The organization also called on Attorney General Tarek Saab and the director of the Venezuelan Intelligence Service, Gustavo González López, to investigate the case, La Patilla reported.

Agents of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) told the SNTP that Medina is not being held at his headquarters, the Helicoide penitentiary, thus denying speculation about the journalist's whereabouts hours after his disappearance, El Nacional reported.

The mother of the journalist, Adelaida Ezaine, told TeLoCuentoNews that they went to the public prosecutor's Basic Rights office to report the disappearance of her son, but they did not let her give the complaint. "Since this morning we have been calling the phone number they gave us and nobody answered us. (...) I am his mother, I have the right to an answer, we are all desperate without knowing the whereabouts of Jesús Medina," she said according to the site NTN24.

Several of Medina’s colleagues also demanded that the authorities report on the whereabouts of the reporter. In social networks, every time news about his disappearance is published, the hashtag #DondeEstaJesusMedina (Where is Jesus Medina) is used.

The Tocorón penitentiary, where a new Venezuelan prison program -- which according to the government, attempts to pacify the prisons-- has not been implemented, is the place where kidnappings, extortion of citizens, food trafficking and other crimes are organized, according to EFE news agency.

At the beginning of October, Medina, along with the Italian reporter Roberto di Matteo and Swiss journalist Filipo Rossi, were detained in Tocorón by the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), despite having the permission of the prison authorities to enter the prison and perform journalistic work.

After their release, the journalists did not give further statements to the press except that the security forces did no harm to them. At that time, they also said that they would continue working a few more days on the investigative reports each one was doing about the prison.

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.