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Venezuela frees French journalists arrested while reporting on political crisis

Yuri Cortez, AFP | Opposition demonstrators take part in a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, called by opposition leader and self-proclaimed "acting president" Juan Guaido, at Altamira square in Caracas on January 30, 2019.

Two French journalists arrested in Venezuela while reporting on the political turmoil engulfing President Nicolas Maduro were freed on Thursday, the Quotidien TV show for whom the pair worked said.

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“Happy to announce that Baptiste des Monstiers and Pierre Caille have been released and will soon be back in Paris,” Quotidien said in a tweet.

Venezuelan security agents also detained three foreign journalists a Colombian photographer, Spanish reporter and Colombian TV producer who had been covering the US-backed effort to oust Maduro for the Spanish news agency EFE.

The arrests followed the deportation of two Chilean reporters detained Tuesday night near the presidential palace and held for 14 hours before being expelled from the country, Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero said.

The reason stated for their arrest was that they had been working in a “security zone ", he said.

“This is what dictatorships do. Stomp on freedom of the press,” the minister wrote on Twitter.

In recent years, several foreign journalists have been detained or kicked out of the country on grounds that they did not have press passes.

Without mentioning the latest arrests, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Wednesday that foreign reporters have entered the country without work permits.

Accused of election fraud, and overseeing a deep economic collapse that has led millions of Venezuelans to migrate, Maduro is facing the biggest challenge to his rule since replacing Hugo Chavez six years ago.

The country’s political crisis intensified this month as national assembly speaker Juan Guaido declared himself interim president.

Protests against the Maduro government have left around 40 people dead and 850 have been arrested since they started on January 21, according to UN figures.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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