The case of Italian photographer Francesca Commissari has already been reported on this blog, but her ordeal didn’t quite stop after she was freed without charges last week.
The full story can be read in full detail in this extense but excellent report from ABC Color, a major newspaper from Asuncion, Paraguay.
Commisari tells about how she was arrested by the National Guard while she was covering the protests in Altamira Square. But her arrest on February 28th was only the beginning of a terrible experience:
All detained (including Commisari) were taken to Fuerte Tiuna, the most important military base in Venezuela… …The women were separated from the men and they were put together in a small room, which they can only leave to go to the bathroom but after being previously handcuffed. Men were handcuffed at all times and forced to sleep in the floor. Women were given a mat to sleep but it was not a big difference…
That night the prisoners didn’t even get a glass of water. On Saturday morning, they gave them an arepa and then some rice at noon. They didn’t get another meal for the rest of the day, not even water. That night at 7 p.m. they were transferred to the Justice Palace. During that time the charges against them were not explained even once. The process ended at 7 a.m. on Sunday. Francesca and the others were handcuffed during the entire court hearing.”
Even if Francesca was later cleared of all charges, her camera equipment was confiscated. Days later, she was more than surprised to find out that her camera was quickly put on sale on a popular e-commerce site.
The saddest part is that her case isn’t the only one. According to the National Press Workers’ Union (SNTP), there are 22 cases of journalists that were robbed of their equipment by the authorities.
Paraphrasing a quote from James Bond author Ian Fleming: Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Twenty-two times? That’s definitely a deliberate strategy, no question about it.