Venezuela: Australian journalist threatened at gunpoint while reporting right-wing protests

Violent opposition protesters in Merida, February 11. Photo by Tamara Pearson.

The Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network (AVSN) released this statement on February 14.

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Australian journalist and photographer Tamara Pearson has been threatened at gunpoint by opposition activists while reporting on student protests in Venezuela. The incident occurred during student protests in the city of Merida on February 11.

Pearson said: “I was taking photos of the opposition protest as I felt that sort of thing was important for good journalism. These opposition people — who don't represent all of the opposition — were forcing people off buses at gunpoint, throwing rocks at cars and motorbikes driving down Avenue Las Americas.

“Later they saw me with a camera and three of them came up to me and put guns to my head. They pushed me to the ground, broke my bag, and tried to take my camera out of my hands. They were very violent and repeatedly said ‘we'll kill you if you don't give us your camera’.”

Pearson said she is not the only journalist to have been the target of opposition protesters. Over the past few days the offices of the state television channel VTV has been attacked, a Radio Mundial journalist was physically assaulted and a state government photographer was shot in the leg.

While much of the media has portrayed recent student protests as peaceful, Pearson said her experience demonstrates otherwise. “The protesters claim to be against violence and for free speech, but from their actions it’s clear that they aren't.”

Pearson has been reporting from Venezuela since 2007 as a journalist for the independent news website Venezuela Analysis and Australian-based publication Green Left Weekly. Pearson is also a member of AVSN.

AVSN spokesperson Federico Fuentes, who led a delegation to Venezuela in December last year to monitor local council elections, said: “The international media has continuously provided biased reporting on events in Venezuela, constantly claiming that ‘peaceful demonstrators’ are being repressed by the government.

“This same tactic was most infamous deployed at the time of the failed April 2002 coup attempt against the Chavez government, with the spread of false allegations that government supporters were to blame for the violence.

“It’s time for the media to start reporting the truth when it comes to Venezuela.”

Fuentes added: “The Australian government must come out and condemn the opposition violence that has occurred in the last few weeks, which almost ended the life of an Australian journalist.”

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