VENEZUELA The country is experiencing a rare political pause following the Supreme Court-ordered departure of the president before the end of his constitutional mandate. During the brief period that will end after the presidential elections on December 5, pardons have been granted to allow media-connected people who faced politically-based court cases to return to the country. Meanwhile, a final version of a bill to amend the Practice ofjournalism Law, pending since 1984, was introduced in the legislature. The most important feature of the bill is the extraordinary legislative character it would give to the National Journalists Colegio, which, according to Article 1, could change the law at its whim by simply modifying its own bylaws. The bill has a number of vices that put its constitutionality in doubt by giving an extremely broad definition to the profession of journalist which would prejudice many workers. Its Article 3 violates several constitutional guarantees, especially the freedom of industry and trade and freedom of expression. Furthermore, the bill would require licensing of journalists, including editors. This bill, which increases the discretionary power of the journalists over the interests of their companies, also includes modifications of the professional secret and right of reply provisions (Article 33). It also would establish a tax for the creation of a national retirement fund for all journalists (Article 42). Finally, the bill would interfere sharply with the government communications policy. The Senate created a special committee on the bill chaired by Senator Luis Vera Gomez who, after hearing from all the sectors concerned, decided to defer consideratrion of it. It is possible that several members of the National Journalists Colegio will be elected deputies in the December 5 elections and they could reopen the debate in the new Congress. As in the military uprising agalnst the government on February 4, 1992, the uprising of November 27 that year also led to the declaration of a state of emergency and the suspension of constitutional guarantees and produced new excesses against journalists and the media. Organs charged with the defense of human rights, labor unions and political personalities have denounced these events. According to a report issued in December by the Venezuelan Education-Action Program, 125 newspaper workers were attacked as they carried out their work during the period from October 1991 to September 1992. During the emergency, 33 cases of censorship were recorded, 32 of which were on February 4, 1992. The National Union of Newspaper Workers reported that 59 workers were knocked down, threatened, wounded and hounded. The union said there were 24 detentions during 1992. It also reported that 22 journalists have been called to testify, eight by military courts, five by criminal courts, two by lesser courts, six by Disip (secret police) and one by the Division of Military Intelligence (DIM). In each case an investigation has been started. The reporters were called before the military courts in spite of laws that military authorities have no competence in matters related to freedom of expression. The head of the Supreme Court of Justice, Gonzalo Rodriguez Corro ordered the detention of journalist Diogenes Carrillo of the newspaper El Nuevo Pais and Radio Rumbos. The judge said Carrillo failed to respect his position when, in an opinion column in El Nuevo Pais, the writer criticized the judge's comments that the Supreme Court of Justice had no jurisdiction to intervene on the part of Congress with President Carlos Andres Perez, as suggested by various sectors in the country, to clarify the well-known case of suspected corruption in the handling of slush funds. On January 15, journalist Maria Veronica Tessari died of injuries suffered on March 19, 1992, when a policeman threw a tear gas bomb that hit her in the head while she was covering an anti-government demonstration. She died following 10 months of intense treatment and several surgical operations. The National Union of Newspaper Workers and the International Federation of Journalists reported that 230 professionals were affected by the exceptional measures adopted during the military uprising in November. Three newspaper workers died in the exercise of their duties. They were Virgilio Fernandez of El Universal, and photographer Enrique Key and production assistant Fanny Burguera of Channel 2. Members of the National Guard and Disip are suspects in the deaths. As a result of the attempted coup, state security agents around the country beat up 13 journalists, arrested eight, searched the residences of two journalists, suspended one TV program and searched and imposed censorship on a radio station. On November 27, agents of the Division of Military Intelligence, acting in a violent manner, took Radio Rumbos off the air despite the vigorous opposition of journalists Alexis Rosas and Teresa Maniglia. The search warrant was issued by Interior Minister Luis Pifierua Ordaz, who had stated publicly on several occasions that the government would take measures against broadcast media. Rumbos' 250-foot-high relay antenna in the interior of the country was knocked down by a Tucano airplane, which according to initial reports belonged to forces loyal to the government. However, this has not been confirmed. On December 12, the Council of Ministers ordered a seven-day suspension of the station for "inciting rebellion and civil disobedience during the events of November 27." President Perez told the press that the station had called people to demonstrate in the streets and had given bombing instructions to airplanes flown by insurrectionists. It was rumored that the station's license would be revoked by the government. On December 14, the station returned to the air after the suspension was lifted by presidential order. However, the pressure was maintained and the government asked for the firing of journalist Alexis Rosa and the suspension of his program, "Opinions on the News," ("Juicio a la Noticia"), on which he had discussed the same corruption case that led the president of the Supreme Court of Justice to order the detention of Di6genes Carillo and the temporary suspension of the program of journalist Jose Vicente Rangel on Channel 10. Rangel felt the suspension of his program was a result of government outrage over a program that exposed criticisms of official policies. The program "Jose Vicente Hoy" returned to the air a week later. Congressional Deputies Orlando Fernandez and Pablo Medina revealed in February the existence of a list of journalists, priests, political leaders and business people who have criticized official positions and who have become targets of government attacks. According to the deputies, listed as expendable were Alfredo Pena, editor of ther daily El Nacional, Rangel, and Miguel Enrique Otero, also of El Nacional.