Venezuela: Facebook User Detained for “Destabilizing” Photograph

This post was co-authored by Marianne Diaz and Luis Carlos Díaz.

On April 16, two days after presidential elections in Venezuela, the Interior and Justice Ministry detained Andrés Rondón Sayago, a citizen who allegedly spread photographs of burning ballots. Officials say that the photographs were taken during 2007 elections, not in the present day. Rondón Sayago was detained, accused of sharing the photograph with “destabilizing intentions.” According to Ministry officials, Rondón Sayago works as security employee up a private television station. The Minister for Information tweeted:

A subject who spread fake images of electoral material from 2010 [intending] to destabilize has been detained http://t.co/MCmgveBsux

Soon after, Jorge Galindo, head of public relations for the Interior and Justice Ministry, tweeted a picture that showed Rondón Sayago along with this message:

The subject  confessed that the picture spread by him in social networks about electoral materials is from the 2007 process pic.twitter.com/EMTwoXkpcQ

Galindo later tweeted [es] a link to a video, uploaded to the A Toda Vida Venezuela (“Venezuela Full of Life,” a government program intended to reduce crime) YouTube channel, where Rondón Sayago issues an official statement in which he declares to have published the picture “by mistake” via Facebook, and asks people to “stop publishing this kind of material” and avoid situations of “terrorism”. The video [es] can be seen below.

Several incidents of online censorship have been reported from Venezuela in recent years. In 2010, two Twitter users were detained by police for allegedly “spreading false rumors” about the banking system. Last month, a woman was detained for tweeting a comment about Hugo Chavez's demise. All of them have since been released on parole.

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