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Venezuela newspaper faces probe over morgue photo of corpses

Graphic photograph: The brief text under the photo says that the Bello Monte Morgue, the only one in Caracas, “has received in the six first months of this year 2,177 bodies whose cause of death was homicide.” El Nacional editor Miguel Henrique Otero said in a statement on private TV channel Globovision that “all you have to do is stand at the morgue entrance to see what’s going on there, the overcrowding, because criminals are out of control.”

Venezuelan prosecutors are investigating El Nacional newspaper after it published a front-page photograph of corpses piled up at a morgue in the capital Caracas, the government said on Saturday, according to local and international news reports. There were 11 dead bodies -- including a child and most of them naked -- in the colour photograph under a Friday headline about deteriorating security in the South American oil producing country.

Two prosecutors have been appointed to coordinate the investigation and determine whether the publication of the photograph violated provisions of the Law on the Protection of Children and Adolescents, the authorities said in a statement.

Violent crime is a sensitive subject in the country in the run-up to September 26 legislative elections that could test support for President Hugo Chavez's socialist policies ahead of a presidential poll in 2012. Official statistics are hard to come by, but nongovernmental organisations say Venezuela has one of the highest crime rates in the continent.

Chavez says violent crime is decreasing, and that fears are being whipped up by his political rivals for propaganda. The director of El Nacional, Miguel Henrique Otero, said his newspaper had been right to publish the "strong" photo. On Saturday, the paper carried a headline saying homicides had increased by 134 per cent in Venezuela over the last 10 years.

The Latin American Herald Tribune reported: [Link]

The head of the CICPC scientific and investigative police force, Wilmer Flores, said this Friday that he will ask the Attorney General’s Office to open an inquiry against the privately owned daily El Nacional for publishing the photo on its front page.

“We are contacting the Attorney General’s Office in writing to take action against that newspaper,” Flores said on state television channel VTV from the Bello Monte Morgue in southeastern Caracas.

The police chief said that the picture, which shows naked and half-naked bodies, bloody and piled on tables and on the floor of the facility, was taken in “2006 and not at present.”

The photo also violates local laws for the protection of children and adolescents, since its publication can spread “fear” and anxiety among them, Flores said in a statement on state television.

From the clean, brightly lit chambers of the morgue, Flores said that the newspaper’s front page “goes against all ethics,” and far from being “true freedom of speech and information, it descends into morbidity.”

The paper is “playing with other people’s suffering” in publishing the picture and ignores “the effort” being made by state security forces in fighting crime, which is diminishing “progressively” in Venezuela, Flores said.

The Ombud’s Office presented Friday before the courts for the protection of boys, girls and adolescents a “protective suit against the daily El Nacional.”

That office requested the newspaper “to abstain from releasing pictures that violate the rights” of minors “and particularly against their progressive and comprehensive development,” state-run Radio Nacional de Venezuela said.

For his part, El Nacional editor Miguel Henrique Otero said that the picture published shows “what a terrible thing crime is in Venezuela.”

Otero said that the bottom of the photo shows it was taken “last December,” and that can be proved by “the date in the Cannon camera (which says that) it is Dec. 26, 2009.”

Date posted: August 16, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 494