The legal framework and general situation has become ever more restrictive for press freedom, media outlets and journalists. In addition there have been attacks and threats by the government. Violence against journalists is alarming. Three journalists have been killed and so far the murderers have not been apprehended. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern on July 8 about the murders of Venezuelan journalists Jorge Aguirre, a photographer for the daily El Mundo, and José Joaquín Tovar, editor of the weekly Ahora, on April 6 and June 17 respectively. UNESCO condemned the August 25murder of Jesús Flores Rojas of the newspaper La Región. He was killed in the city of El Tigre in Anzoátegui state. On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights demanded that the government stop harassing journalists and expressed its concern about the use of a registry of millions of citizens who voted to revoke the mandate of President Chávez in the 2004 constitutional referendum. The names are on the so-called Tascón list which is being used to discriminate in public jobs, government contracts, applications for services and to identify opponents, critics and dissidents of official policy. The body of Filippo Sindoni, publisher of the daily El Aragueño, was found on March 30. He had been kidnapped the day before, apparently for reasons not related to his profession. The government systematically violates citizens’ right to express themselves freely without being harassed because of their opinions, to receive information and circulate it in any medium, which is stated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guaranteed in Articles 57 and 58 of the Venezuelan Constitution. The subordination of governmental powers to the will of President Hugo Chávez is manifested in more and more flagrant acts, to the detriment of justice and the objectives of a democratic state. The situation is characterized by amendments, new laws and regulations consistent with the interests of the totalitarian plan and procedures and declarations of the attorney general’s office and the judiciary. For example, an attempt was made with false information, to implicate journalist Patricia Poleo, now in exile, and publisher Nelson Mezerhane in the murder of a prosecutor from the Public Prosecutor’s Office more than two years ago. Also, the Supreme Court denied an appeal on constitutional grounds by the publisher of the daily Tal Cual against a censorship ruling by a review court requested by the attorney general in January, 2006, accusing the media of “obstruction of justice.” Another ruling by a civil court opened the door to penalties for media outlets, when it said that newspapers must pay moral damages based on journalists’ opinions. A few weeks before the presidential election, threats to press freedom and independent media outlets are increasing: The president threatened to revoke the franchises of private television stations; the Communications and Information Ministry accused the media of “psychological terrorism” for covering demonstrations; the justice minister blamed the media for reporting on his dispute with the attorney general; the government accused the Inter American Press Association of “disinformation to attack Venezuela”; the governor and legislature of Bolivar state ordered the demolition of the building owned by the daily Independiente, with 30 years of journalistic work in the region, and the eviction of its journalists and workers. The Venezuelan government has used public funds to establish many publications, television and radio stations which enjoy unlimited budgets, large amounts of government advertising, exclusive access to government events at which independent journalists and media outlets are barred. This is all done to establish uniformity in the messages and news to impose the regime’s ideology and opinions. On March 29, journalists Rafael Fuenmayor and Yanitza León were attacked physically and verbally during an event with the president of the National Electoral Council. On March 30, the governor of Guárico state sued journalist Henry Crespo for defamation. On April 7, the Communications and Information Ministry threatened to apply the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, known as the Ley Resorte, which regulates the broadcast media. It called their coverage of peaceful demonstrations against crime and insecurity in Caracas after the murders of the Faddoul brothers “psychological terrorism.” The government agency CONATEL threatened to suspend transmission of the Globovisión television channel for 72 hours. On April 11, a judge in Aragua state sentenced Mireya Zurita, editor of the daily El Siglo, to 18 months in prison for not revealing the source of a news story involved in a case of “direct aggravated defamation” brought by a police chief. On April 28, the Justice and Interior Ministry blamed the media for reporting on its dispute with the Public Prosecutor’s Office stemming from the actions and contradictions in the investigation of the murder of the Rev. Jorge Piñango. On May 17, a judge dismissed the case against journalist Napoleón Bravo, based on a charge against him by the Public Prosecutor’s Office for “abuse of the Supreme Court.” But the ruling was overturned on July 14 by the Appeals Court, and the journalist will go on trial in another court. On May 18, the Bolivar state legislature asked the mayor’s office of Caroní to order that “all commercial activity by Roderick Publishing be ended and it be evicted from its building which should be demolished.” The building is the property and headquarters of the company that has published the daily Correo del Caroní for 30 years. On May 21, the IAPA expressed its concern and described the measure calling for the eviction and demolition of the headquarters of Correo del Caroní as ridiculous. The government responded the same day in a communiqué of the Communication and Information Ministry accusing the IAPA of “disinformation attacking Venezuela.” On June 13, the Venezuelan Press Bloc began an open-ended session expressing “the most energetic rejection of the abuse being committed against the daily Correo del Caroní.” In the middle of July the IAPA sent a mission to Caracas and Puerto Ordaz at the invitation of a deputy who attended the Quito meeting in March. The Communication and Information Ministry, in the name of the government, refused to meet with the IAPA delegation as did officials, legislators, mayors and municipal officials who had agreed to meetings in which the IAPA sought to “hear in person the official points of view.” After many meetings with publishers, journalists, professional organizations, unions, representatives of the broadcast media and a visit to the daily Correo del Caroní in Puerto Ordaz, the delegation concluded that “there is a continuous deterioration in press freedom.” On July 21, Vice President Vicente Rangel, in the name of the government, rejected the IAPA report, saying that it “was prepared in advance.” On June 15, President Chávez threatened to revoke the franchises of private television stations in 2007. On June 30, journalist Hugo Díaz Milano said that “the government wants to take over journalists’ organizations by not allowing elections in the National Journalists Colegio.” He accused the regime of favoring an “organizational assembly” to illegally replace the leaders of journalists’ organizations, such as the Press Union and the Radio and Television Union. Journalists Leopoldo Castillo of the program “Aló Ciudadano,” of Globovisión, and Miguel Angel Rodríguez of the program “La Entrevista” on Radio Caracas Televisión reported harassment by government organizations, newspapers, state television channels and other media outlets controlled by the government. They said the intent was to justify the elimination of their widely broadcast programs of citizen participation. Julio Balza, communist of the daily El Nuevo País, was sentenced on July 26 to two years and 11 months in prison and a fine of 800 tax units for “continuous aggravated defamation” against the housing minister. Executives and journalists of the daily El Caroneño were attacked by municipal officials during a radio program to commemorate the newspaper’s anniversary on July 26. Other journalists of the newspaper were attacked earlier. A preliminary hearing was held in a review court on the charge against journalist Marianella Salazar of libeling the vice president of the republic and the governor of the state of Miranda. The judge ordered that the case go directly to trial without a ruling on the evidence. The journalist’s defense appealed the decision and the case is now in another court awaiting a ruling from an appeals court. The journalist also faces a libel charge in a Caracas court. Journalists of the daily Los Andes were attacked on July 28 by the agents of the political police who tried to take away their equipment. Union leaders linked to the government of the state of Barinas damaged the office of Diario de los Llanos on August 2. A proposal by the Chávez government to put control of the content of the media on the human rights agenda of Mercosur was rejected on July 30 by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. The proposed model was Venezuela’s controversial Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Televisión which provides for penalties that could lead to self-censorship. On September 21, President Chávez verbally attacked journalist Luisana Ríos of Radio Caracas Televisión when she asked him a question at a press conference in New York. On September 22, the attorney general’s office ordered the director of the news channel Globovisión, Alberto Federico Ravell, to appear on October 3 for an “investigation.” The order does not say what it is about. Globovisión, its executives and journalists have been subjected to all kinds of harassment and attacks in recent years because of their critical journalism. On September 26, publisher Nelson Mezerhane presented to the Supreme Court what his lawyers called “clear evidence of judicial fraud” in connection with the case of the murder of a prosecutor in the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The attorney general’s office has accused him of planning the crime along with journalist Patricia Poleo, who is in exile for this reason. In September the publisher of the daily El Impulso of Barquisimeto was notified that a judicial case had been brought against him for publishing a complaint in the Letters to the Editor page by a citizen who said she had received bad service at an Executive Branch agency. This is one more attack among others against the newspaper and its journalists because of its independent news and editorial stance, which the IAPA is already aware of.