This period was characterized by an intensification of political changes, which President Hugo Chávez uses to threaten press freedom and other democratic guarantees. Among the elements of the strategy to shackle the press are electoral processes marked by fraud and the Electoral Council’s subservience to the executive branch; the increase in the number of Supreme Court justices from 20 to 32; the implementation of changes to the Penal Code which increase the number of crimes of contempt; and application of the Law on the Social Responsibility of Radio and Television, which restricts opinion and journalistic content. Marcel Granier, president of Radio Caracas TV, filed a suit in the Supreme Court, saying that this law, commonly called the Content Law, is unconstitutional. Every day violence against journalists and media outlets that are critical of the government increases, threatening them with the possibility of being taken over or disappearing. The International Association of Broadcasting reported that on September 14 the National Telecommunications Committee (CONATEL) opened administrative proceedings against seven private television stations, including Globovisión for alleged failure to use assigned frequencies. On September 20, the same proceeding was brought against 22 private radio stations for alleged infractions or offenses against the Law on the Social Responsibility of Radio and Television. This situation is aggravated by the fact that President Chávez has granted himself all power by putting the National Assembly, the judiciary and the electoral system under his supervision. In this way, he was able to impose laws and regulations that allow him to attack those who dare to dissent. Given this situation it would be utopian to believe that press freedom exists. There is self-censorship caused by fear and the intimidation by state enforcement institutions. The government now uses official advertising as an instrument of coercion and has become the country’s “main communicator.” For this purpose it has linked four national television stations, with the support of 25 semi-official stations and it has filled up half of the nation’s dial with 146 semi-official and alternative community radio stations. It has also created a swarm of print media, with 72 semi-official community newspapers. The following are some of the most important events affecting press freedom. A criminal investigation was opened against the newspaper El Universal for “insulting” the national prosecutor in an editorial reporting the questionable actions of the judiciary and the functioning of his office. The Venezuelan Press Bloc reacted immediately in a press release stressing that the Public Ministry’s accusations against the newspaper were simply a way to intimidate the rest of the private media outlets. A civil case was brought against the newspaper El Impulso to intimidate it and make it change its anti-government editorial line. It concerned a case brought in May of 2002 against an army major with the last name Certain. It was proved that he had committed crimes in the Maiquetia airport customs office, and the government financial prosecutor’s office opened a file for him with a verdict of guilt that prevents him from holding any official position for three years. But this administrative measure, which was published in the Official Gazette, was ignored by the governor of Lara state who named him to a high regional post. This appointment caused a reaction in the media, including El Impulso, which in turn brought violent repression from a group that burned the vehicle and attacked the residence of the journalist who wrote the news story, José Ocanto. Human Rights Watch ordered protective orders for the journalist. Later, the major brought a criminal complaint against Ocanto, but the statute of limitations ran out. Later he tried to reopen it, bringing a civil suit against the journalist and El Impulso. El Correo de Caroni has been attacked by the government for not hewing to the official line. One of its frequent columnists was attacked. Also TV Guayana, which belongs to the same publishing group, was raided by the military without a judicial order to seize a recorded videotape. The Military Police also raided the office of the newspaper Últimas Noticias to demand photographs taken when the president’s security detail attacked and hit women at the entrance to the National Pantheon. On October 3, the daily La Razón was also raided by police. The Venezuelan Press Bloc reported that this was a reprisal for the newspaper’s reports on administrative corruption. The newspaper’s publisher, Pablo López Ulacio, has been in exile in Costa Rica for several years. Lawsuits were filed against several journalists, including Ibeyise Pacheco, Iván Martínez, Marianella Salazar and Patricia Poleo, who was given a six-month suspended sentence. Colegio membership is still required to practice journalism.