Venezuelan Journalist a Target of Violence and Threats: Marta Colomina is “Caracas Nine” Dissident #4

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NEW YORK (August 26, 2008) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) released a report today detailing the case of Marta Colomina, a Venezuelan journalist and academic who has faced death threats and several attempts on her life over the past five years. Her case exposes the Venezuelan government’s persecution of independent journalists and continued assault on freedom of expression. Colomina is the fourth case in HRF’s Caracas Nine campaign.

Colomina, who has worked for both state and privately-owned media outlets and served as a professor and an administrator for the past 40 years at one of Venezuela’s largest universities, has been the subject of intimidation and threats for her outspoken criticism of the policies of the government of Hugo Chávez. Colomina was one of the four female journalists who initially exposed the links between the Venezuelan government and the FARC.

Attacks on Colomina have ranged from the verbal to the physical. The minister of defense called her an “undesirable foreigner,” and she has been labeled a traitor on posters hung in Venezuela’s capital city, Caracas. In 2003, as she was driving to work, a group of masked men carrying automatic rifles intercepted her vehicle, blocked it, and threw a Molotov cocktail at her car.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders, the Inter American Press Association, and the Committee to Protect Journalists have all condemned these violent attacks and noted that this violence aims to curtail freedom of expression in Venezuela. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights requested that the Venezuelan state provide Colomina with a security detail. It has not done so. Instead, a local opposition mayor provided her with a police escort. Such negligence suggests that the government of Venezuela has little interest in protecting her fundamental human rights, beginning with her right to life.

Despite the time that has passed since the 2003 Molotov cocktail attack, the offices of the attorney general and of the public prosecutor have yet to perform a thorough, timely, and impartial investigation. In February of this year, Colomina’s police escort were shot at by gunmen. One of her bodyguards was seriously injured by a gunshot wound to his mouth.

“It is thanks to the persistence and courage of journalists like Marta Colomina, Ibeyise Pacheco, Patricia Poleo, Marianela Salazar, Liliana Velasquez, Leocenis García, Roger Santo Domingo, and many others that Venezuela is able to maintain some vestiges of a free press and that is why it is crucial for human rights organizations to work to safeguard these rights. They have used their voices to peacefully express their ideas, yet others seek to silence them through threats, violence, and intimidation. All the while, the Venezuelan government tacitly encourages such attacks with its rhetoric,” said Javier El-Hage, HRF’s General Counsel.

The Caracas Nine campaign promotes awareness of human rights abuses and seeks legal protection for individuals persecuted and endangered by the Venezuelan government. The nine cases featured in the campaign are emblematic of the widespread human rights abuses directed against those who openly criticize Venezuela’s government. Francisco Usón, whose case was the first taken up by HRF, was freed from prison on conditional release on December 24, 2007.

For further information on the numerous Venezuelans who are being persecuted for dissenting from the government, please visit www.CaracasNine.com. To demand freedom for Venezuela’s political prisoners, please visit www.TellChavez.com.

HRF is an international nonpartisan organization devoted to defending human rights in the Americas. It centers its work on the twin concepts of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny. These ideals include the belief that all human beings have the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF’s International Council includes former prisoners of conscience Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Armando Valladares, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.


Contact: Thor Halvorssen, Human Rights Foundation, (212) 246.8486, info@thehrf.org
Si desea una copia de esta nota de prensa en español, diríjase a www.lahrf.com/media/080826.htm

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