MIAMI, Florida (August 18, 2010)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today condemned the censorship imposed on the Caracas newspaper El Nacional and Venezuelan newspapers that prohibits publication for the next 30 days of photos or reports covering violence, calling the action “a heavy-handed government policy of prior censorship.”
The ban was ordered yesterday (Tuesday, August 17) by Summary Court No. 12 for the Protection of Children and Adolescents and prohibits print media from publishing “violent, bloody or grotesque images, whether they are factual or not” that could affect young people.
The controversy arose after El Nacional published on its front page last Friday the picture of a morgue filled with numerous bodies as part of a report on public safety. The accusation against the newspaper followed a claim by the Student Front Against Privatization of the Central University of Venezuela that the photo “violates the right to the moral and physical integrity of boys, girls and teenagers, as well their right to receive information appropriate to their proper education.”
IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre called it “one more example of censorship in the government’s scheme to silence the media, especially now when the prevention of images showing the reality makes up part of their election strategy.”
The court order against the Venezuelan newspapers affects only the publication of images and is justified as an “act of protection” which will “last one month from the present decision.” At the same time the order against El Nacional imposes a fine of 2% of its gross revenue and additionally bans it from publishing images, reports or advertisements of any kind that refer to or depict blood, weapons, terror messages, or physical attacks which it stated could raise issues of war and death.
Aguirre, editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, criticized the fact that apart from directly censoring and fining El Nacional the action prohibiting all printed publications in the country from producing reports and photos showing violence “is nothing more than a clear and heavy-handed government policy of prior censorship.”
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, added, “We are witnessing a severe blow to press freedom and a climate of total uncertainty that could bring grave consequences to the press if it doesn’t know exactly what level of violence it must be aware of in order to decide whether or not to publish reports of public interest.”
“We have seen censorship of all types, and the Venezuelan government has been the leader in this area, but this new one is clumsy, grotesque and ridiculous; it just shows that what we have here is a government without limits,” Rivard added.
On another matter, the IAPA officers issued an open call to the Venezuelan government to put and end to the “witch hunt of journalists,” recalling the case of Guillermo Zuloaga, president of the Globovisión television network, whose extradition sought by the Hugo Chávez administration has been given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court.
Zuloaga last month appeared before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to appeal for the justice that had been denied him in his country.
IAPA President Aguirre reported that Zuloaga has been the subject of public condemnation by President Chavez on several occasions and said that “I have no doubt that the justice system will only act according to Chavez’ signals.”
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 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org; http://www.impunidad.com