Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s drive to suppress press freedom, which is enshrined in Article 57 and 58 of the Constitution, is continuing with ever more serious and defiant threats and incidents. At this point, the president, who controls all branches of the government, moves directly to close media outlets, as in the case of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), the most important channel in the country. Also, an administrative court imposed a fine of 1.5 billion bolivars on the television station just a week ago. Globovisión, the news channel for Venezuela, has been subjected to fines, government lawsuits and unscrupulous acts by the highest courts. The government refuses to grant it use of transmission frequencies it needs to expand, which have been requested from Conatel, the agency that regulates them, for years. The government almost constantly uses official advertising as a political tool to crush the media. A fine of hundreds of millions of dollars imposed by a court against the daily Tal Cual, its publisher and a columnist, illustrates the use of financial punishment as an official weapon to restrict press freedom. One of the most renowned physicists in Venezuela, chief of the computational physics laboratory of the Venezuelan Scientific Reseach Institute and winner of the National Science Award, was fired for publishing a critical article in the daily El Nacional on September 15, 2006. The director of the institute said, “I must speak truthfully…Freedom of opinion has limits.” At the same time it acts against journalists and independent media outlets, the regime uses its three official television stations and the international one, Telesur, as well as its radio networks and so-called community radio stations throughout the country to broadcast programs dedicated almost totally to ideological indoctrination and government propaganda. A plan for what is called “alternative media,” developed with Cuba, was announced. Twenty-six new “community media outlets” have been opened out of 128 planned, comprising 100 FM stations and 28 television channels. The former information minister and president of Estado Telesur channel said at the beginning of this year that “hegemony in the media is a necessary instrument of the revolution.” The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said on March 9 that there has been a “gradual deterioration in the rule of law” in Venezuela and the government has not allowed the commission to visit the country for five years. This deterioration was accomplished within a legal framework. On June 12, 2001, the Supreme Court issued decision 1013 which imposed restrictions on freedom of expression. On December 18, 2003, it issued decision 1942, that denied the effect of international treaties on human rights and also declared that recommendations of international organizations, like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, are not mandatory and freedom of expression is not an absolute human right. These decisions were used to amend the Penal Code to classify dissidence as a crime and to enact the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, intended to control the content of private broadcast media outlets. The Academy of Political and Social Sciences on February 8 criticized the Enabling Law approved by the National Assembly on January 31, which authorizes Chávez to legislate by decree. “The delegation in such terms, that is, almost unlimited, is unconstitutional. Delegated legislation which is allowed in Article 203 of the Constitution, is always specific or restricted, and never general, full or total.” The following incidents affected the work of journalists: On October 7, municipal police officers of San Diego attacked the photographer of Semanario Impacto and the newspaper San Diego al Día who was covering a demand by Community Organizations for Housing (OCV). On November 4, Chávez threatened not to renew television stations’ franchises for broadcasting a video showing Rafael Ramírez, minister of energy and president of Pétroleos de Venezuela, the state oil company, doing political proselytizing at the company’s facility. On November 8, Globovisión reported that the National Guard prevented it from broadcasting live. On that day, Freddy Machado, a journalist of Globovisión, said he feared for his life. He reported that he was accused by a Public Ministry prosecutor in Táchira state of illegal possession of official documents. On November 16, a Globovisión team was attacked while covering a protest by two groups of workers in Plaza Venezuela. On November 18, Chávez threatened to close media outlets that publicize allegedly destabilizing messages on Election Day December 3, 2006. On November 28, the official union UNT sought an injunction to suspend operations at RCTV and Globovisión from the Constitutional Branch of the Supreme Court. It alleged that the channel had broadcast distorted information about the December 3 election. On December 4, the Telemundo network reported that Conatel had hindered its coverage of the election. On December 16, journalist Patricia Poleo said she would not appear in court following statements by Isaías Rodríguez, the attorney general of Venezuela, that there is an arrest warrant out for her. She said there is no justice in Venezuela. Poleo has to remain in exile, because the attorney general has named her as the alleged mastermind of the murder of prosecutor Danilo Anderson based on the testimony of a false witness. An investigation by journalist María Angélica Correa broadcast on Globovisión revealed that the witness was an imposter. For her investigation Correa was awarded the “King of Spain” prize in the television category. On December 28, President Chávez said that RCTV’s license would not be renewed, and he accused the channel of being “pro-coup.” The next day, the minister of information said RCTV’s license would not be renewed and the frequency of Globovisión would be put to another use. On January 6, 2007, José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the OAS, asked President Chávez to reconsider his decision to revoke RCTV’s franchise. He called the measure “unprecedented in recent decades in Latin America” and called on the media to continue their work. The government called these statements “false,” and asked Insulza to retract them. Eight countries publicly expressed support for Insulza. On January 18, Conatel made available the frequency of Niños Cantores del Zulia and Canal 36 because it had not presented documents to prove it had been awarded the franchise. Gustavo Ruiz, the channel’s news director, said it had paid all taxes under the Basic Law of Telecommunications and the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, although it will continue operating under the direction of the church. On January 23, a public hearing was held in the Lara state court against the daily Tal Cual concerning an article written by the humorist Laureano Márquez mentioning the daughter of President Chávez. Later a court fined the newspaper and Márquez. On February 2, a government legislator proposed the establishment of a censorship committee to begin to investigate and supervise the media. On February 11, unknown individual threw an explosive device at the offices of the newspaper Las Noticias of Cojedes. On February 17, Minister Chacón said the government plans to buy the technical equipment of RCTV, but the price will be determined by experts and not the owners. He also said that if no agreement is reached with RCTV, the law provides for expropriation. On February 24, a group of journalists demonstrated for freedom of expression and to protest the attacks on Tal Cual and Laureano Márquez. At a news conference on February 25, President Chávez attacked the Brazilian network O Globo after its correspondent, Pablo López Guellys asked about the fine imposed on Tal Cual and Laureano Márquez. Preliminary hearings are scheduled for this month in the trials of journalists Marianella Salazar and Napoleón Brazo after requests for reconsideration and other maneuvers that have delayed the proceedings, which threatens the journalists freedom of expression.