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French nationals among foreign journalists arrested in Venezuela

Yuri Cortez, AFP | Demonstrators march against President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas on January 30, 2019.

Venezuelan authorities have detained five foreign journalists covering the standoff with opposition forces seeking the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro.

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Two others, from Chile, were deported as the crisis spilled over to hit journalists covering the latest crisis to roil the oil-rich but economically crippled nation.

Two of the detained are from France, two from Colombia and one from Spain.

The European Union's top diplomat on Thursday called for their immediate release.

"There is a clear call from my side to release immediately your colleagues in Caracas," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters in Bucharest after a meeting of EU defence ministers.

"We firmly believe that all journalists should be able to exercise their duties, responsibilities and rights in their work," Mogherini said.

The two French journalists, working for a TV program called Quotidien, were detained on Tuesday while filming outside the presidential palace, diplomatic sources said. A local producer working with them was also held.

The Spanish journalist and the two Colombians were working for the Spanish national news agency Efe, its bureau chief in Venezuela told reporters. All had travelled from Colombia to cover the growing turmoil.

'This is what dictatorships do'

The Two Chilean TV journalists were 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.

Venezuela'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)

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