Venezuelan photographer released after spending 16 months in military prison, but still faces charges

*This story has been updated.

Authorities released Venezuelan freelance photographer Jesús Medina Ezaine from Ramo Verde military prison late in the evening of Jan. 6.

He must appear before the courts every eight days and cannot leave the country, according to the National Association of Journalists in Caracas.

Jesús Medina (Twitter)

Jesús Medina (Twitter)

Seven political prisoners were also released that evening, according to human rights organization Foro Penal, as cited by El Nacional.

I thank the Venezuelan nation for being very aware of my case and making noise to achieve my release,” Medina wrote via Twitter, accompanied by a video in which he reiterated his gratitude. “I apologize to the country, for not having been able to do more in search of our freedom. Reporting is not a crime!”

On Aug. 29, 2018, Medina was with two Peruvian reporters at a Caracas subway station when he was detained by agents. He was charged with laundering, criminal association, incitement to hatred and obtaining illegal profit against acts of public administration, El Nacional reported at the time.

There were 10 postponements for a hearing in his case and he suffered ill health effects, according to the BBC.

Following his release, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on authorities to drop the charges against Medina.

“Jesús Medina should not have spent one night in prison. It is inexcusable that Venezuelan authorities held him for sixteen months without a trial,” Natalie Southwick, CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator, said via a press release. “Authorities must immediately drop all charges against Medina and stop detaining critical journalists.”

The photographer and journalist previously was detained in Venezuela in October 2017 along with two international reporters while reporting at the Tocorón prison. He was released two days later.

The next month, he went missing and reappeared two days later, saying he was tortured and threatened with death. Later that month he said he left the country due to threats for his work.

Medina has worked for the site Dolar Today, which publishes black market exchange rates. As of Dec. 1, 2019, he was one of three journalists in Latin America jailed for their work, according to a special report from CPJ. The two remaining incarcerated journalists are Cuban Roberto de Jesús Quiñones and Honduran David Romero Ellner.

*The story was updated to include provisional measures against Medina upon his release.