Press freedom continues to deteriorate with legal, judicial and physical attacks against independent media outlets and journalists as part of an intentional strategy by the government of President Hugo Chávez to impose an anti-democratic government. An official policy to progressively eliminate independent media outlets and the goal of “communications hegemony” proclaimed by President Chávez are among the greatest challenges to press freedom. The president uses frequent and mandatory network linkups (the one on October 4 lasted almost seven consecutive hours) to take control of all the radio and television stations to broadcast threats and propaganda. He also has the use of 238 radio stations, 28 television channels, 340 print publications and 125 propaganda sites on the Internet. The government has threatened to close and fine Globovisión, and open a sixth case against it, while the judicial system, controlled by Chávez, has charged Guillermo Zuloaga, its president, who has been ordered to be at the disposition of the authorities and is prohibited from leaving the country. The government has also charged Rafael Poleo, publisher of the daily El Nuevo País and the magazine Zeta, who is now in exile. His daughter Patricia Poleo has been in exile four years. The journalist Gustavo Azocar is in jail. Chávez has closed 34 radio stations and announced that he will close 240, in an attempt to cause more fear and self-censorship. The government discriminates by refusing to place advertising in independent media outlets and uses all its power to try to intimidate and weaken private advertisers. The official agency CONATEL in July prohibited the broadcast of radio and television spots sponsored by CEDICE defending private property and announced sanctions against the media outlets that transmitted them. The National Assembly has approved and amended laws overturned in a referendum to amend the Constitution on December 2, 2007. It has imposed laws that deny human rights, political pluralism, press freedom and the rights to property, labor organizing, work, due process, free education and health among others. In October President Chávez approved the Justice System Law, copied from the Cuban regime, establishing so-called popular justice, with criminal, civil, juvenile, and even military jurisdiction. This law gives community councils, directly controlled by the president, the ability, along with other official entities, to intervene in trials and even to sanction judges. In its Article 26 it even establishes that “any person has the right under the law to participate in any case in the courts, whether or not it is within its jurisdiction.” More than 2,000 public administration positions are in the hands of the military. An amendment to the law governing the Armed Forces that took effect in October established a fifth force (like the army, air force, navy) made up of citizens in public or private institutions who have been organized and trained as a “combat corps.” At the end of March, the president of the National Assembly proposed an investigation of Beatriz Adrián of Globovisión for publishing the salaries of legislators. In April, a violent group attacked the headquarters of the daily El Carabobeño in Valencia, and the mayor accused the newspaper of attacking and criticizing government institutions. In May the minister of CONATEL announced that the government would eliminate what he called a radio monopoly. On May 4, the National Assembly requested punishment of Globovisión for giving the first reports of the earthquake, saying it had caused panic. CONATEL open a proceeding against it. The Supreme Court refused to consider a constitutional appeal by Globovisión and Radio Caracas Televisión. The Foreign Ministry accused journalist Nelson Bocaranda of being a “hit man of the pen,” an accomplice of murders and an intelligence agent of the United States. Later the station Onda of Unión Radio national network cancelled Bocaranda´s news program. There were protests from several sectors of the country. The National Assembly is preparing regulations for paid television, which had increased since RCTV became international and went to cable. Chávez had closed its broadcast signal which had the highest coverage and listenership. Chávez told the Public Ministry and the Supreme Court that they should resign if they are not going to act against the media and asked for speedy action against the owner of Globovisión. In June CONATEL began to update information about private radio and television stations, demanding that their owners appear personally to do so immediately. Government legislators presented a protest against the daily La Verdad of Maracaibo at the prosecutor´s office for “instigation to murder and apology for crime.” The prosecutor´s office later opened an investigation. The prosecutor’s office reopened with “extreme urgency” a case against the Globovisión program “Aló Ciudadano” (Hello Citizen) for a show broadcast on October 13, 2008. Guillermo Zuloaga, the president of Globovisión, was charged in a case concerning 24 new vehicles that he had on a property. Later his residence was raided by the National Guard. A month later Judge Alicia Torres reported to the nation that she had been pressured to rule against Zuloaga and she was replaced by the Supreme Court. The Seniat, the tax agency, fined Globovisión 5 million bolivars, then increased the fine to 9 million bolivars a few days later. The volunteer corps of the Caracas City Hall and civic groups demanded that CONATEL investigate the official channel VTV for misuse of power to persecute and intimidate individuals and legal entities who manage private media outlets. The Supreme Court ruled that companies can be criminally prosecuted. In July, government sympathizers again attacked the offices of the dailies Notitarde and El Carabobeño in Valencia. The national prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz, submitted a bill against media crimes. The government closed 34 radio stations despite a wave of protests by international organizations like the United Nations, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and domestic and international press freedom organizations. President Chávez publicly applauded the measure. Thirteen journalists from the daily Ultimas Noticias were attacked while demonstrating against the Education Law. On August 3 the pro-Chávez activist Lina Ron led an armed attack against the office of Globovisión channel with 40 people on motorcycles carrying firearms and grenades. They threw teargas that penetrated the television studios. Two people were injured and several workers were sickened. In September, CONATEL opened its sixth proceeding to sanction Globovisión, while RCTV rejected measures against it. Briefcases with false bombs appeared in front of the offices of Bloque De Armas, publishers of the dailies 2001 and Meridiano. The international meeting “Arekuna” held in Caracas told Chávez to pressure advertisers not to buy advertising in independent media outlets In October, the official newspaper repudiated a publication about the recently nationalized “Banco de Venezuela” in the daily El Nacional, and said that newspaper must not “continue its daily uncontrolled campaign to overthrow Chávez.” The prosecutor´s office charged Francisco “Pancho Pérez,” of the daily El Carabobeño who was accused by the mayor of Valencia of “offending a public official and ´injuria´ of a person charged with public service” after publication of his column on March 30. The government of President Hugo Chávez continues to refuse to allow the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to visit the country in addition to not obeying its decisions and those of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. On November 6 the Press and Society Institute said that 2009 was the most violent year against the press in the history of Venezuela. So far there have been 107 attacks against journalists and media outlets.