Photo: VOA Noticias retrieved

The official campaign of harassment against journalists in Venezuela shows no sign of stopping, as Cody Weddle, who covered the country for Miami TV station WPLG and British newspaper The Telegraph among other media outlets, has been deported after spending almost half a day under custody of the Military Intelligence Directorate (DGCIM).

His assistant, Venezuelan journalist Carlos Camacho was arrested and later released as well. Camacho works as correspondent for the Miami Herald and Latin American Herald Tribune.

Weddle told WPLG that he was specifically questioned about a report he made last month about soldiers who were turning on Nicolás Maduro. “It was clear they didn’t like my reporting,” Weddle told WPLG’s Louis Aguirre in his first statement after being released. He also said that he was to about to be charged with “treason” and “espionage”.

Weddle first worked for TeleSUR as an English-speaking correspondent and then did freelance work from Caracas.

News of Weddle’s arrest came up in the social networks in the morning of March 6th, indicating that his residence was raided by DGCIM officials under a warrant of a military court. The SNTP (National Press Workers’ Union) was able to later confirm the Weddle’s and Camacho’s arrest.

The news reached his hometown of Meadowview, Virginia: His family immediately asked for support from U.S. authorities and his mother Sheryl was interviewed by local newspaper Bristol Herald Courier, in which she tells how someone from the Miami Herald (another outlet Weddle worked for) informed her of his situation. The U.S. State Department was “deeply concerned”.

With Weddle’s deportation, ten foreign correspondents have been expelled in Venezuela in 2019 and at least 36 journalists in total have been arrested while doing their jobs, according to the SNTP. German reporter Billy Six is under SEBIN’s custody since November and journalist Jesús Medina Ezaine, held since last August, had his court hearing deferred for the sixth time.

This news comes along with more blockades online by state telecom CANTV and other local ISPs in the last couple of weeks, including Google, Bing, Twitter and YouTube. NGO Espacio Público said that DDoS attacks against news sites like Armando.Info, Efecto Cocuyo, Caraota Digital and El Pitazo were also reported in March 4th, when Juan Guaidó returned to Venezuela.

What does Cody Weddle’s arrest really mean to his colleagues still working here? Local freelance journalist Roman Camacho told The Daily Beast the following: “This is one of the riskiest places where you could be a journalist and we’re constantly threatened and persecuted by the government and its supporters. We have to be extremely vigilant and there isn’t a day that passes that I don’t fear repercussions… We are hunted, by everyone, and Cody getting arrested is not a frantic move by the government but a statement to us all. They are coming for us, and not even former allies are safe.”

And it feels way more certain after the death of dissident chavista Alí Domínguez this week, found severely beaten in a Caracas highway after being missing for several days. He was threatened and even physically attacked for denouncing corruption in the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV) and criticizing the clampdown of human rights in the country.

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