IFJ Condemns "Harsh and Unacceptable " Sentence against Journalist in Venezuela

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

today condemned the ruling of a court in Venezuela

which sentenced journalist Francisco Perez of El Carabobeño newspaper to three years and 9 months imprisonment

and fined him 20.000 US dollars. The court also banned him from exercising

professional and political activities.

"We condemn this harsh and unacceptable sentence which

takes media repression in Venezuela at

record levels," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "The four crippling

orders in the ruling prove the manipulation of justice in Venezuela

in order to silence critical reporting on the country's leadership"

Perez, writer for over forty years of a journalistic column

in daily El Carabobeñ", of Valencia, one of the most important cities of Venezuela,

has been accused of "slander and offense to civil servant" following his

article about alleged acts of nepotism involving the mayor of the city, Edgardo

Parra.

The IFJ says the sentence against Perez demonstrates

the need to continue the campaign waged by journalists all over the world for

the decriminalization of press offences.

This case, says the Federation, raises new concerns

about the hostile attitude of the authorities in Venezuela

towards independent media and journalists. It follows the arrest and detention

on 23 May of graphic reporter Simón Clemente, of daily 2001, for carrying out his work in front of the President's residence

in Caracas,

which is considered "security area".

There have been bomb attacks against "Ultimas Noticias"   "El Mundo" and "Líder" newspapers' offices, located in the Torre de la Prensa building, in Caracas.

No one was hurt in these acts which constitute a deliberate attempt to intimidate

free press. In another incident, two journalists, Carmen Marin of Final and Junior Lugo of daily La Mañana,

in Coro are

facing prosecution to reveal their sources which tipped them for their report

about the alleged incineration of rotten food in the area of Tiguadare in the

Falcón state.

The IFJ is monitoring closely the situation of the TV news

channel Globovision, after

accusations were leveled against its owner Guillermo Zuloaga, for alleged illegal

commercial practices which are not related to the media outlet. The businessman

has complained that these allegations are part of the campaign of harassment

and pressure by the Venezuelan

government against the TV channel.

For more information contact the IFJ

at     +32 2 235 22 07

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists

in 125 countries worldwide