(Bloomberg) — Journalist Luis Carlos Diaz was released late Tuesday after being detained a day earlier and held overnight by Venezuela’s intelligence police.
A top government official had accused Diaz of taking part in a plot to cause a nationwide blackout. The arrest is an escalation of President Nicolas Maduro’s attempts to silence and intimidate the press, which include the recent temporary detentions of Univision journalist Jorge Ramos and U.S. freelance reporter Cody Weddle, deported last week.
Diaz’s release was confirmed by the national press workers union, known as SNTP, on Twitter. Diaz was charged with instigating crime and barred from leaving the country without authorization, SNTP said. He must appear before a court every eight days, the group said.
Michelle Bachelet, the two-time president of Chile and head of the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is visiting Caracas, said in a tweet Tuesday that she asked the government for “urgent access” to Diaz. His wife, journalist Naky Soto, and others protested in front of the public prosecutor’s office.
Since the start of 2019, 40 journalists and press staff have been illegally detained and questioned in isolation, according to SNTP.
Diaz was grabbed Monday by intelligence police while biking home from Union Radio, according to his wife. Diosdado Cabello, a top official of Maduro’s socialist party, accused Diaz without evidence of being part of a far-right “blackout operation” that led to power outages lasting more than four days in some areas. Hours after Diaz’s arrest, Maduro said that two people who committed a cyber attack on the electric system had been captured.
Efforts to reach a government spokesman were unsuccessful Tuesday.
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