Venezuelan court bans 22 media officials from leaving the country

CARACAS: A Venezuelan court banned 22 media officials from leaving the country while they are under investigation in a libel case involving National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello, those affected said Wednesday.

The ban affects El Nacional newspaper publisher Miguel Henrique Otero, La Patilla website publisher Alberto Ravel, and Tal Cual weekly publisher Teodoro Petkoff, along with 19 other media officials against whom Cabello filed suit last month.

The 22 will need to appear before the court once a week.

Cabello filed suit against several media, which echoed a report by the Spanish newspaper ABC, that said US courts were investigating Cabello for his alleged ties to drug gangs.

Ravell, who leads a successful news website, said he had not been notified of a court summons. He also said he feared nothing because he had done nothing wrong, and stressed that La Patilla would not be changing its editorial policies.

Otero complained that the judge would ban them from leaving the country before issuing summons for the affected people to appear in court. He denounced that, in Venezuela, judges receive "direct orders from the government" and that the government intends to destroy independent media.

High-profile opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has been in prison in Venezuela since early 2014 for his role in protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, who has criticised Maduro's leadership amid the decaying economy, and other opposition figures have also been jailed in recent months. – dpa