Miami (May 18, 2012)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) asked Venezuelan authorities to halt the defamatory campaign against executives of the newspaper Notitarde, calling it “a malicious discrediting maneuver” instigated by federal and state legislators of the governing party.
This week, a series of anonymous posters and placards accusing the newspaper and its executives of being financed by drug traffickers appeared in a number of streets in the city of Valencia, Carabobo.
The campaign against Notitarde began after National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello, member of the incumbent United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), declared that Notitarde had links with the Makled family, whose members are on trial on drug trafficking charges.
PSUV legislators in Carabobo state, and PSUV Councilmembers in the city of Valencia echoed Cabello’s accusations in front of the federal Congress. They contend that Notitarde’s executives had published political advertising purchased by Abdala Makled four years ago. Abdala Makled, a mayoral candidate for the city of Valencia, is the brother of Walid Makled, recently extradited from Colombia and charged with drug trafficking. Legislators and Councilmembers also accuse the newspaper for the publishing of advertisements for a Makled group company in 2007 and 2008.
Notitarde’s editor-in-chief, Ricardo Degwitz, told the IAPA that there was no legal impediment to a contractual relationship with the Makled group at the time when the advertising was purchased. In the case of Abdala Makled, he said that his candidacy was authorized by the National Electoral Council and that “it was not the role of media outlets to challenge that body’s ruling.”
The chair of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, expressed surprise at the attacks on Notitarde, saying that they “seek to undermine the credibility of a media outlet that has shown editorial plurality and diversity.”
Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, added, “We have before us a malicious maneuver to discredit because we see that authorities are trying to link a past event where the newspaper acted in good faith with legal proceedings taking place in the present against this family.”
In addition to public accusations, the PSUV state branch asked the Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office last week to begin an investigation into Notitarde’s executives’ supposed links with alleged drug trafficker Walid Makled.
Representatives of academic groups, labor unions, civil organizations and media employees have publicly rejected the accusations.
Walid Makled has also been accused of being the alleged mastermind in the January 16, 2009 murder of Orel Sambrano, a journalist for the Valencia weekly newspaper ABC and columnist for Notitarde.
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.