Lawyer: Venezuela frees German journalist

Lawyer: Venezuela frees German journalist
German freelance reporter Billy Six attends a news conference in Berlin, March 6, 2013. The freelance journalist had been released from 12-weeks captivity in Syria and said he was not mistreated by his captors.

A German freelance journalist jailed in Venezuela since November on espionage charges was released Friday within weeks of two other reporters being expelled from the tumultuous South American nation, his parents and a human rights attorney confirmed.

A court in the capital of Caracas ordered journalist Billy Six to be let go under the conditions that he report back every 15 days and not speak to media, attorney Carlos Correa of Public Space told The Associated Press.

Six, 31, won’t be deported from Venezuela, but Correa also said that the journalist isn’t prevented from leaving if he chooses.

“We are overjoyed!” his parents Ute and Edward Six posted on a Facebook, also railing against Germany’s foreign ministry for not doing enough to help their son who spent 119 days in solitary confinement.

“Viva Venezuela!” they wrote. “Free Billy Six!”

Resident of a Berlin suburb, Six has traveled the globe as an independent journalist for 12 years, publishing his reports in right-wing outlets. His arrest has generated little interest in mainstream German media, which relatives blame on his conservative affiliation.

In Venezuela, he documented the economic collapse and mass migration from the socialist country, landing in jail on espionage charges that his family rejected as false.

Earlier arrest in Syria

This wasn’t Six’s first arrest amid turmoil. In 2013, he was jailed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for three months after illegally entering that country to report on its bloody civil war. He was eventually handed over unharmed to Russian diplomats in Damascus who had helped secure his release.

Six turned his attention to Venezuela more than a year ago. His father previously told The AP that his son entered the country legally but was unable to secure journalist credentials required by Venezuela to work as a reporter.

While reporting on Venezuela, Six posted two crudely edited German-language videos online showing him walking the streets, interviewing people and at times narrating his conclusions, critical of Maduro’s socialist government.

While the government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro has little tolerance for critical coverage by local press, foreign journalists who cross officials are usually spared the same harsh treatment. In the past, foreign reporters, like Six, who weren’t accredited would stay in custody for just a few days before being ejected from the country.

Other journalists deported

The release of Six follows the recent deportation of other two journalists.

Venezuelan security forces seized U.S. freelance journalist Cody Weddle earlier this month at his apartment in Caracas where he had worked for more than five years. Most recently, Weddle sent dispatches to a Miami TV station.

Univision’s Jorge Ramos and his team were also deported in late February when Maduro cut short an interview during which he was shown video on an iPad shot a day earlier of young Venezuelans eating food scraps out of the back of a garbage truck.

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