Three journalists, including a Swiss, who had been detained in Venezuela while reporting on a prison, have been released, the Swiss foreign ministry has confirmed. They were accused of possessing non-authorised recording equipment.
The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed to the Swiss News Agency that a Venezuelan court had released three journalists, including an Italian and a Swiss citizen, on Sunday.
Filippo Rossi, 27, an independent journalist from the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, was arrested on Saturday along Roberto Di Matteo (Italy) and Jesus Medina (Venezuela) who had been working with him.
The Il Giornale newspaper, for whom Rossi and Di Matteo were working, confirmed the information.
The Venezuelan union of press workers, known as SNTP, had reported the arrest on its Twitter page. Rossi and his co-workers had been reporting from the Torocon prison, located about 100 kilometres (62 miles) southwest of Caracas, according to SNTP. The SNTP said the three journalists had been accused of possessing unauthorised recording devices during their investigation.
"They had an invitation to enter Tocorón. They had registered to enter when they were denied access and then arrested. There seems to have been a counter-order to prevent their entry," the union said.
Members of the journalists’ union as well as lawyers had been able to meet the journalists and ensure they were safe. SNTP reported via Twitter that its representatives had seen no signs of torture or mistreatment when they met Rossi and his team.
Venezela is ranked 137th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Indexexternal link from the organisation Reporters Without Borders. The organisation sums up the situation for reporters in the country as “extremely tense since the onset of a political and economic crisis in 2016, and is exacerbated by [President Nicolas] Maduro’s frequent references to the 'media war' being waged by national and international media outlets to discredit his administration".
Reporters Without Borders also says in its analysis that “arbitrary arrests and defamation prosecutions” have taken place against journalists in Venezuela.
A bitter power struggle has been raging in the country for months between the left-wing nationalist government under President Maduro and the centre-right opposition. Nearly 130 people have been killed in protests since the beginning of April. According to human rights activists, more than 5,000 people have also been arrested.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/vdv