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Three Journalists Arrested Over Venezuela Prison Report

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Caracas - An Italian, a Swiss and a Venezuelan journalist have been arrested as they prepared a report on a prison in northern Venezuela, say human rights and press freedom groups.

The trio includes Roberto Di Matteo (Italy), Filippo Rossi (Switzerland) and Jesus Medina (Venezuela). Rossi had previously been misidentified as Italian.

Close contact

Critics say Venezuelan prisons are overpopulated and inmates are malnourished, despite government plans to reduce inmate populations.

"The Swiss Embassy in Caracas is in contact with the appropriate authorities and is assisting the Swiss national in accordance with the consular protections afforded him," the Swiss foreign ministry said.

The Italian foreign ministry said its mission "has been following from the very beginning the arrest of Italian national Roberto Di Matteo, and is in close contact with local authorities".

Di Matteo, Rossi and Medina were arrested on Friday after entering Tocoron prison in northern Aragua state with a television crew, according to the rights group Foro Penal.

"They were... part of a media investigation when they were arrested," the national journalists union said.

Group's lawyers

Media rights groups did not confirm for which outlets the Italian and Swiss journalists were reporting. Medina is a photojournalist for anti-government website DolarToday.

Foro Penal director Alfredo Romero said some of his group's lawyers had traveled to provide legal aid to the trio, who are being held by national police.

Late last year, rights group Una Ventana a La Libertad estimated that there are some 88 000 inmates across a country with an official prison capacity of 35 000.



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