An American television team that had gone to Caracas to interview president Nicolás Maduro was detained inside the presidential palace for two-and-a-half hours on Monday, February 25, 2019.
Spanish-language network Univision’s prominent news anchor Jorge Ramos took to his show’s Facebook page to describe the incident in detail.
Mr Ramos, 60, was interviewing Mr Maduro when the leader became upset with the line of questioning, as Mr Ramos presumed.
“I asked him if I could call him either a president or a dictator, because as you know millions of Venezuelans don’t consider him a president. Then we discussed the fraud that happened here in May 2018, also the reports of torture and human rights abuses and political prisoners.”
“At the end I showed him a video, that I personally took last Sunday, of three kids behind a trash truck looking for food. He just couldn’t stand it. He didn’t want to continue the interview.”
One of the kids in the footage — who identified himself as Jesus — said he was eating from rubbish for the first time in his life and, addressing the president, called him ‘useless’.
The government then ordered “the seizure of the video and Univision equipment, including monitors and mobile phones, as well as the detention of the journalists,” Univision reported.
The network also confirmed journalists María Martínez, Claudia Rondón, Francisco Urreiztieta, Juan Carlos Guzmán and Martín Guzmán were detained along with Mr Ramos.
A short time later, Univision tweeted a photo of Mr Ramos on his phone at the hotel where he stayed — confirming he and the team had been released.
Later, the press workers union of Venezuela (SNTP) said that immigration authorities would take the team to the airport early in the morning. The hotel where they were put up was taken over by Venezuela’s SEBIN intelligence service.
In the early hours of Feb. 26, the team was escorted to Caracas’ Maiquetía airport by SEBIN agents.
The newspaper El Pais asked the Minister of Communication and Information, Jorge Rodriguez, what had happened: “He [Mr Ramos] didn’t come for an interview. He came to insult and to record with hidden cameras security zones of the palace.”
In a tweet Mr Rodriguez stated that hundreds of journalists “have received the decent treatment that we usually give to those who come to fulfill the journalistic work” and ended “We don’t lend ourselves to cheap shows”.
This is not the first time reporters have been detained in Venezuela. In January, several press workers were detained, including four from Spanish news agency EFE.
SNTP counted 40 aggressions by the state security forces against press workers in the month of January alone.
The Maduro regime has repeatedly claimed that the press — particularly foreign media — campaigns against him and spreads misinformation about the country’s crisis.
Venezuela’s Ministry of Information has taken several local and foreign media entities off the air for being critical of the administration, such as in the cases of Colombia’s NTN24 in 2014, and CNN En Español, RCN and Caracol in 2017.
A veteran Mexican-born American journalist, Mr Ramos is known for his confrontational style of questioning. In 2015, he was thrown out of a news conference of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.