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Press watchdog blasts Venezuela's criminal investigation of daily


Miami, Jul 28 (EFE).- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) on Thursday described as "an affront" to freedom of expression the criminal investigation the Venezuelan government is conducting into the newspaper El Universal.

Gonzalo Marroquin, president of IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said "this new action demonstrates and reaffirms the existence of a governmental strategy against freedom of the press." To pursue its end, "the government amended its penal code, increasing sentences for criticizing the performance of public officials," he charged.

According to the Venezuelan attorney general's office, the purpose of the investigation is "to determine whether there was punishable action in the editorial of July 25, 2005, which offends, exposes to public ridicule and allegedly vilifies the attorney general's office and the judicial branch of government." "The resistance of Venezuelan officials to accept criticism is remarkable," said Marroquin, head of Guatemala's Prensa Libre daily.

"Intimidating the media through investigations or threats of investigation is nothing other than abusing governmental privileges," he added. EFE so/mp

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