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The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today denounced the killing of Andrés Nieves Zacarías and Victor Torres by the security forces.

The two Venezuelan journalists were killed on August 22 at the headquarters of Guacamaya TV, during an operation by the Fuerzas de Acciones Especiales (FAES) or the Special Actions Forces of the Bolivarian National Police of Venezuela.

Guacamaya TV,  a self-proclaimed “alternative, socialist communication service for the community”, was the subject of the FAES operation due to the victims’ alleged connection to dangerous rebel groups. However, Nieves Zacarías was a member of the ruling Francisco de Miranda Front, legacy of Hugo Chavez, and a political activist for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), headed by the incumbent president Nicolas Maduro.

Franklin Torres, father of Victor Torres and founder of Guacamaya TV, said that the two journalists were dragged out of the offices by the FAES and ‘vilely murdered’. His son was shot once, while Zacarías was shot twice in the chest.His father claimed that the information released about the murder was false and that the weapons allegedly found at headquarters were planted there by FAES agents.

“The brutal killing of the two journalists at a TV station by government forces is appalling”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “Journalists in Venezuela face severe repression and have resorted to self-censorship owing to the threats by the authoritarian regime, which has severely undermined press freedom and democratic principles in the country.”

Several journalists have been arrested over the past few months, as the government is struggling to quell protests. Arnaldo Sumoza, the director of local TV channel, was detained on April 15 while covering protests over a water shortage in the community El Sombrero in Guárico state. The journalist was accused of inciting public disorder. He was released after being held for 30 hours and ordered to appear every two months before court as a precautionary measure.

Eduardo Galindo Peña, director of the online portal Senderos de Apure, was detained on the same day by the National Anti-Extortion and Kidnapping Group in the city of San Fernando de Apure in Apure state. He was arrested in relation to content published on his portal. He was released on April 19.

In March, journalist Darvinson Rojas was arrested in connection to his coverage of the COVID-19 crisis. He was released after being in detention for 12 days.