Venezuela is in fact becoming notorious as the anti-journalist capital of the world. With the growing battle between the government in power led by Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader, Juan Guaido who is recognized by the western world, being a journalist in that country is becoming a nightmare. If you’re not reporting in favour of the President Maduro regime, you have this feeling that it is only a matter of time before you disappear or have your house raided by government officials based on strange charges.
The Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ) recently stated that Venezuela leads Latin America with the most journalists jailed for doing their work. It so bad that you could even be arrested for rebellion against government even when you don’t understand how.
Cody Weddle, a freelance reporter who lives in Caracas, Venezuela, was detained by authorities in recently, according to the National Union of Journalists, SNTP.
In a tweet, the organization said Venezuela’s Military Counterintelligence had raided Weddle’s home early Wednesday and had also detained his Venezuelan colleague Carlos Camacho, report’s Miami Herald.
The team’s equipment was also seized. The organization said he hadn’t been heard from them since 8 a.m. local time.
Weddle, 29, a Virginia native, has lived in Caracas since 2014 where and has worked for South Florida’s WPLG Local 10, the Miami Herald, ABC, CBC and the Telegraph, among others.
Espacio Publico, a Caracas-based media advocacy group, said it was trying to determine where Weddle might be held and said government officials would not confirm he was in their custody. The organization also said it was highly irregular for Weddle to be detained by the military and not the police.
Weddle’s detention, if confirmed, comes as media groups say there are signs of a broadening crackdown in Venezuela amid heightened political tensions. Espacio Publico has records of at least 49 reporters being briefly detained in January and February. Seven journalists have also been deported this year.
Last month, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos and his team were detained for several hours at the presidential palace as they interviewed Nicolás Maduro. They were then deported.
A German reporter, Billy Six, has been in Venezuelan custody since November and Jesús Medina, a Venezuelan reporter who worked with DolarToday website, has been held at a military prison since August 2017.
The Miami Herald’s Latin America correspondent was detained for two days in 2013 and deported in 2016.
Weddle’s detention comes as U.S. and Venezuela relations are at an all time low. Washington is backing interim President Juan Guaidó as he tries to unseat Maduro, who won reelection last year though the results were widely condemned as neither free nor fair.
Florida Republican Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio demanded Weddle’s quick release.
In a tweet, Scott said Weddle “must be released immediately and the U.S. will not stand for this kind of intimidation!”
Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro also weighed in, saying media “censorship and intimidation” in Venezuela must stop.
Also on Wednesday, Venezuela’s foreign ministry said it was expelling German Ambassador Daniel Kriener after he, along with other diplomats, escorted Guaidó from the international airport Monday back into Caracas, amid fears Guaidó might be arrested.
Weddle’s last story was filed for WPLG about the return to Venezuela of Guaidó on Monday.
Terrible conditions in that country also make journalism practice even more difficult, just like it does to every other profession there. Growing discontent in Venezuela, fuelled by hyperinflation, power cuts and food and medicine shortages, led to a political crisis that is practically turning the nation upside-down.
Opposition leader Guaidó declared himself interim president following large protests, galvanising opponents of current socialist President Maduro.
More than three million Venezuelans have fled their country over recent years, blaming hunger, lack of medical care, rising unemployment and violent crime. Inflation is ridiculous, people lack food, GDP is falling, people lack medicine, oil output is declining, many people are leaving, the future is getting scary, and the journalist is part of this society.
You can see that the journalist here is actually practicing journalism between the proverbial Devil and Deep Blue Sea.
(With reports from Miami Herald)