MIAMI, Florida (April 13, 2017)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed its strong condemnation of recent acts of violence against the press in Venezuela, which confirm the organization's repeated denunciations of the restriction of freedom of expression and of the press in the South American country and the increase in acts of intimidation, institutional and physical violence that are making the search for and dissemination of information criminal offenses.
Yesterday (April 12) international news channel TV Venezuela reported that a group of armed supporters of President Nicolás Maduro's government attacked, threatened and broke the equipment of its reporter Mary Triny Mena and cameraman Ademar Dona as they were carrying out their work in Caracas. The act of violence, repudiated by the TV channel, included beatings of the cameraman with a metal bar, seizure of identity card and the taking of photos of him "all in front of the indifferent gaze of the GNB (Bolivarian National Guard)."
The previous day French journalists Sebastián Pérez and Didier Barral of the CAPA photo agency, were arrested by agents of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin). Venezuela's National Press Workers Union (SNTP) yesterday reported on its Twitter account, that the journalists, who were getting ready to leave the country, still remained in custody.
The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Roberto Rock, declared his "strongest condemnation of the increase in violence against journalists and news media that have been attacked, threatened and intimidated for doing their job and find themselves in a total state of lack of defense in the face of a government that describes them as the sources of the country's ills and goes so far as to encourage and justify these attacks."
Rock, editor of the online news outlet La Silla Rota of Mexico City, Mexico, added, "As was denounced at out last half-yearly meeting this is 'the criminalization of social protest and the exercise of free speech.'"
"Given the difficult situation being faced by our colleagues in Venezuela, we news organizations and international media have the obligation of giving voice to their denunciations and demands for respect for the work of the press, as not only have they been attacked during coverage of protests but also they have been exposed to constant risk when seeking to report on everyday activities," he said.
The IAPA detailed in the resolution on Venezuela, passed at its Midyear Meeting held March 31 to April 3 in Guatemala ,that there have been produced deportations and obstacles to the practice of journalism by no less than 17 foreign correspondents, the CNN in Spanish and NTN24 television signals were suspended, the government has not complied with the 2015 ruling of the Inter-American Human Rights Court on restitution of the RCTV channel's signal, and their continues in jail in a precarious state of health Braulio Jatar, publisher of Reporte Confidencial. The hemisphere organization made a commitment to urge the international community to continue denouncing the serious situation that the country is undergoing.
The anti-government protests initiated last week have left five people dead, more than 100 arrested, dozens injured by the rubber bullets used by police, and a larger number tear-gassed, according national and international press organizations.
On April 7 there was reported a blockade of the Web sites of news channels VivoPlay and VPI TV (Venezolanos Por la Información – Venezuelans For Information) following an order by the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) made to the Internet operators. Meanwhile, the Venezuela Press and Society Institute (IPYS) reported that between March 28 and April 8 there were recorded at least 25 restrictions of coverage of matters of public interest, 19 physical attacks, 11 acts of intimidation, four attacks upon equipment, three arbitrary detentions, three robberies and an attack upon the offices of a news media outlet. The organization also said that of the 39 media employees involved 21 were reporters, 10 news photographers, five foreign correspondents, two cameramen and one stringer.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.