Jim Wyss, the Miami Herald’s Andean bureau chief who traveled to Venezuela to cover a massive protest rally in Caracas, was detained by Venezuelan immigration authorities Wednesday evening.
Wyss arrived in the Venezuelan capital very early Tuesday and entered the country with a journalist visa valid through October. However, he emailed the newspaper at 5:21 p.m. Wednesday, saying: “Am being detained … by immigration.”
After not hearing from him for four hours, his editor received an email from him Wednesday night saying he was well and being put on a plane to Panama. He said he had been detained because he wasn’t registered to be a journalist in Venezuela. He said he had filed all the required paperwork, but he was being expelled from the country.
The day Wyss arrived in Caracas, two journalists from Al Jazeera and other news organizations had been turned away when they tried to enter the country. The Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday that Venezuela has denied entry to at least six journalists who wanted to cover a protest scheduled for Thursday to demand a recall referendum on President Nicolás Maduro.
“Jim Wyss traveled to Venezuela as a journalist to report a story that is extremely important to our readers and Latin America,” Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez said. “He was doing his job when he was detained. We are grateful for his swift release."
The CPJ has called for the Venezuelan government to allow foreign journalists to freely work in the country.
“We urge Venezuelan authorities to allow journalists to cover events in Venezuela, in the midst of a deep economic and political crisis,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Authorities should expedite timely permission for journalists so the international press can report firsthand on these important events.”
In 2013, Wyss, who is based in Bogotá, Colombia, and has covered the Andean region for the Herald since 2010, was detained by Venezuelan authorities just as he was wrapping up a reporting trip on the Venezuelan border and taken to Caracas. He was held for 48 hours. At the time, Venezuelan authorities said the detention stemmed from not having the proper media credentials. Since then, Wyss has returned to Venezuela on reporting trips without similar problems.
CPJ said that among the journalists who were denied entry were its own Andes correspondent, John Otis, and reporters from Le Monde, Caracol Radio in Colombia, Caracol TV and the two journalists from Al Jazeera.