Billy Six: The Imprisoned Journalist You Haven't Heard of

When a foreign journalist gets arrested and sent to Venezuela's notorious El Helicoide prison, it's big news. So why not more of a ruckus over Billy Six? Because when you're German, and far right, things get tricky.

Photo: Berliner Kurier, retrieved.

Last November, news broke of the arrest in Venezuela of Billy Six, a German journalist who has written mostly for publications of the far-right. According to Caraota Digital, he was detained on November 17 in Paraguana, Falcón, by 15 agents of Military Intelligence (DGCIM). Pictures of Nicolás Maduro found on his phone are considered “main evidence.” Six’s brother says they’re from two military parades in Fuerte Tiuna, in 2017 and 2018.

The Venezuelan state has been hostile to international correspondents for a while now: in recent months, two different groups of foreign journalists were arrested by security forces, later released and deported. The latest case is somewhat different, as the reporter detained works outside the mainstream.

Carlos Correa, head of NGO Espacio Público, told local journalist Beatriz Adrián that Six was investigating “drug trafficking, smuggling of gasoline and strategic material” at the time.

Espacio Público also informed that Six was brought to Caracas and charged for “rebellion” and “espionage” by a military court. He’s being held at the Helicoide (SEBIN’s headquarters) and, a week ago, he started a hunger strike. He’s in contact with the German embassy now.

This wasn’t Six’s first time in Venezuela: he shot video footage of himself witnessing the “21st century socialism” in Caracas and covered the migrant exodus for little-known group Die Deutschen Konservativen, describing the “prevailing doom atmosphere in the South Caribbean.” This organization confirmed to Deutsche Welle that Six travelled to Venezuela on their behalf.

Six’s family has spoken out, defending him and looking for answers about his health:

“He never touched a weapon, never joined in any demonstrations,” his father, Edward Six, told The Associated Press. “He just was on the street. He talked to all these normal people. He asked them questions and put that on the internet.”

Junge Freiheit, one of the publications Six has worked for, also gave him their public support. The weekly newspaper is known for its ultraconservative, nationalistic editorial line and openly supports the Eurosceptic, far-right political party Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD), which already has presence in the Bundestag and the majority of German regional parliaments.

This also isn’t Six’s first time detained while working as “war reporter” (as the JF statement called him): Back in 2013, he spent two and half months arrested after crossing into Syria to cover the civil war. He was returned through the Russian Embassy in Damascus.

He also covered the war in Eastern Ukraine and was particularly interested in the shut down of Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight on 2014. He made a documentary film in which he questions the conclusion reached by investigators that Russian-backed separatists took down the aircraft. In his view, a Ukrainian fighter jet was the real culprit and multiple witnesses, he says, can confirm it.

Pictures of Nicolás Maduro found on his phone are considered “main evidence.” Six’s brother says they’re from two military parades in Fuerte Tiuna, in 2017 and 2018.

In 2016, Six and British freelancer Graham Phillips (who covered the Ukrainian conflict for Russia Today) went to the main offices of the German non-profit journalist group Collectiv in Berlin, and harassed them for their own coverage of the MH17 flight, calling them “lying press.” Shortly after this incident, Six was interviewed by the German version of Russia Today (RT).

It’s probably because of his fringe views and the kind of outlets he worked for that his arrest has not gotten broader media attention in Germany. Before Christmas, Six’s father released a video statement, asking the mainstream press for more coverage.

Several weeks after this arrest, many questions still linger over the prisoner’s current situation. From the government, silence, even as the German embassy tries to have direct contact with him.