Jorge Lanata. (Photo from Radio Mitre)

In the wee hours of this morning, the arrivals hall at Ezeiza International Airport teemed with cameras and journalists. They awaited the return of Argentine journalist Jorge Lanata and two members of his team, who were deported yesterday from Venezuela. Lanata never showed up. His colleagues on the television news program Periodismo Para Todos (PPT) were among those surprised to discover that he had diverted to Panama.

Lanata had traveled yesterday to report on the crisis in Venezuela. The government of Nicolás Maduro immediately denied his entry, according to Eduardo Porretti, chargé d’affaires at the Argentine Embassy in Venezuela. After being held incommunicado for eight hours at the airport, members of the PPT were sent on a flight to Panama, where a layover was planned before returning to Argentina.

“[Venezuelan forces] prohibited our entry without motive,” Lanata explained in a brief communication with TN. “They had no qualms as we completed standard procedures. But there were ten types of security surrounding us all the time, so we could not even communicate among ourselves.”

The Association of Journalistic Entities of Argentina (ADEPA) and the Inter-American Press Association (SIP) condemned the decision of the Venezuelan government. “ADEPA repudiates the deportation of Lanata and considers it extremely grave to limit the access of journalists to a country to cover news events,” the organization said in a statement.

The Freedom of Expression and Democracy Foundation (Fundación LED) expressed its “deep concern” for the incident, and warned of “restrictions on the exercise of freedom and the press.”

Lanata is now in Panama. He will head to Colombia later today to cover “the exodus of Venezuelans who have gone to buy food or escape the one-sided war,” according to Radio Mitre. Argentine press expects, though has not confirmed, that Lanata will carry out his Sunday night television program as scheduled.