Press freedom is barely getting by in a climate of censorship and a context of violence and lack of security that everyone in Venezuela is suffering. The Venezuelan opinion group Movimiento 2D sums up the problem this way: “Deaths during the month of August in Venezuela reached numbers greater than those reported by countries at war – more than 550 in 30 days. Crime is the main preoccupation of Venezuelans. Crime and the daily risk of being killed, of being attacked, kidnapped, murdered is keeping the population in a kind of state of siege that has changed their habits, their customs, their lives.” In this climate of insecurity journalist Wilfred Ojeda was murdered. Ojeda was found with his hands tied and a bullet wound to the head on a street in Aragua state. The authorities said that Ojeda, a columnist with the newspaper El Clarín de la Victoria, was killed for reasons that had nothing to do with his work as a journalist. The extent of the lack of security is astonishing, something hat is not easy to describe due to the fact that police chiefs and senior officers have been forbidden to talk to the press about this issue for the past seven years. According to the organization Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia (Venezuelan Violence Watchdog) 15 million weapons are circulating in the country, of those 5 to 6 million illegally, as the people feel the police are not protecting them. This organization also reported that 2010 ended with nearly 17,600 deaths in violent incidents – gangland actions, clashes with police or others. Some independent media continue without access to key sources. Attempts to learn what is going on fail; they are denied relevant information or it is hidden from them. The people get only so-called “untainted” figures of the main problems. The Press and Society Institute (IPYS) accused the government of suffocating the independent media by using indirect censorship. “They use official advertising to punish or reward, they file intimidating lawsuits that get nowhere or they buy up media with government money,” it said. Regarding this latter point, the Zulia state Journalists Guild (CNP Zulia) denounced the fact that the Zuvisión television channel had shut down and left more than 50 employees out of work. “Of most concern,” it said, “is that this media outlet was acquired by groups supporting the government that had already bought up the majority shareholding in Tele N, now called Coquivacoa.” The conflagration is constant, as is the filing of lawsuits and threats to shut media down. The IAPA, through its president, denounced abuse committed by the government by “impeding distribution of the weekly Sexto Poder,” calling such action an encroachment on the right of all Venezuelans to be informed. It called on the government to restore full rights to the publication and release its editor, Dinorah Girón. She was arrested and the newspaper shut down temporarily for having published a front-page cartoon caricaturing several government officials. A ban on publishing photos of violent incidents, imposed by a judge on the newspaper El Nacional, remains in effect. Also, that paper’s editor and publisher, Miguel Henrique Otero, is awaiting application of the Law on Social Responsibility on Radio and Television and penalization of the program “La Hojilla,” aired by the state-owned television channel, and its host for what is seen as indecency and being unprofessional in providing information. Similarly, the Globovisión TV network continues to be threatened with seven lawsuits and its president, Guillermo Zuloaga, has been forced to go into exile. Remaining out of the country and facing legal action in Venezuela are Rafael Poleo, editor of the magazine Zeta and the newspaper El Nuevo País, and journalist Patricia Poleo. Social media have become a new stage for the crisscrossing of accusations and reproaches and an increasing activity of hackers defending the government. In Venezuela “there exists a symbolic political conflict” and “the discrediting of opposing views, for years shown in the traditional media, has now migrated to the Internet,” the communication and network coordinator of the investigation center Gumilla, Luis Carlos Díaz, told Agence France Presse. Hackers tapped into a dozen Twitter and e-mail profiles of members of the Venezuelan opposition, among them those of the head of the National Electoral Council, Eduardo Semtei, author and journalist Leonardo Padrón and journalist Berenice Gómez. Comedian Laureano Márquez and the host of the program “Radar de los Barrios,” Jesús Torrealba also got their “come-uppance” in social media. Also hacked were the blogs of former ambassador Julio César Pineda and the head of the NGO Control Ciudadano, Rocío San Miguel. After their profiles were hacked Leonardo Padrón and Berenica Gómez filed a formal complaint with the Criminal Scientific Investigation Corps (CICPC) but to date have received no response. The proliferation of illegal radio stations has not been attacked or checked, and because they operate underground they do not pay any kind of tax, they jam signals and they offend, always outside the law. This proliferation is such that there are now more than one thousand throughout the country, as reported by Enza Carbone, president of the Venezuelan Broadcast Industry Association. While all this is occurring the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is still awaiting government permission to visit the country. Carlos Correa, president of the organization Espacio Público (Public Space), has said that there is an increase in censorship and violations of freedom of expression. Responsible for 81% of this were government entities in the following percentages: security agencies 38.9%, public officials 14.6% and the judiciary 13.6%. The International Association of Broadcasting (IAB) called for restoration of the on-air signal and return of equipment seized by the Venezuelan government four years ago from Radio Caracas Televisión. It also asked for the return of 32 radio stations whose broadcast licenses were withdrawn. Other relevant developments during this period were: On May 5, the Venezuelan Armed Forces (FAN) threatened and described as “military objectives” three journalists and the head of the non-governmental organization Control Ciudadano, Rocío San Miguel. On May 6, reporter Yonny Camacho urged the Public Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the beating up of reporters by the Barinas police force, known as Polibarinas, while they were doing their job. On May 18, officials of the mayor’s office in Libertador city occupied and blockaded the pressroom of the newspaper El Nuevo País. On May 20, the Public Prosecutor’s Office accused the weekly Sexto Poder of committing an “informational offense” by publishing photos of Venezuelan Comptroller General sprawled on a bed. On May 28, the mayor of Pedraza shut down the local pay-for-view television channel after its owner required him to pay 80,000 bolivars that he owed for nine months of service. On June 11, reporters with the newspaper Correo del Caroní were beaten up as they went to cover a court case. On June 17, Gustavo Ortiz of El Carabobeño was beaten by National Guard officers as he was describing clashes and mistreatment of convicts in the El Rodeo prison to members of their families. On June 20, Globovisión television network called for equal access on the state-owned CANTV satellite service and criticized the fact that broadcast outlets supporting and submissive to the Hugo Chávez government were receiving favorable treatment. On June 27, Communication and Information Minister Andrés Izarra accused privately-owned media of having lied about President Chávez’ health. Meanwhile, Cilia Flores, a Congresswoman from the ruling party, at a press conference did not respond to reporters’ questions about the president’s health. She shouted at El Nacional reporter Marú Morales and NotiTarde reporter Josselyn Torres, calling them “vampire faces” with “crow’s feet.” On June 30, the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) opened legal proceedings against Globovisión (the seventh lawsuit) on a charge of arousing anxiety in its coverage at El Rodeo prison. On July 6, the board of directors of the Zulia state regional television channel Zuvisión shut it down, dislodging 50 employees – journalists, cameramen, technicians and other staff. The local branch of the National Journalists Guild condemned the hasty action and that the channel had then been rented out by a pro-Chávez group. On July 6, the host of the program “La Hojilla” spoke of the death of his bodyguard and, incensed, denied that the young woman who was riding on the assailant’s motorcycle was his cook. He used grotesque expressions repeatedly on July 6, 8 and 11 against the El Nacional editor and publisher Miguel Henrique Otero and his family’s honor. On July 14, a group of hooded men entered the offices of the Anzoátegui TV in Barcelona and stole master control equipment, forcing the channel off the air. On July 14, the editor and publisher of El Nacional filed a lawsuit against the host of the program “La Hojilla,” charging him with contravening decency and professional ethics. He also sued for libel and called on CONATEL to apply the Law on Social Responsibility on Radio and Television to the state-owned television channel VTV, on the grounds that one of its programs had incited to hatred. On July 31, television channel Vive, located in Maracaibo, Zulia state, was attacked. A pickup truck drove by at high speed and several shots were fired from it, wounding two people. On August 1, journalist Carlos Sánchez with Radio Fe y Alegría radio station in Maracaibo was kidnapped by four unidentified assailants, who stripped him of his belongings. As they drove him away they told him the radio station’s editorial stance needed to change. On August 3, the National Journalists Guild condemned the use of public bodies, specifically the National Assembly, to attack journalist Sara Díaz of El Universal for having reported on the moment in which a group of citizens were accusing Congressman Pedro Lander of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) of beating a poor person. On August 13 the Supreme Court rejected ordering the government to restore the 102.3 FM broadcast signal to the Belfort radio circuit. On August 21, the editor-in-chief of the weekly Sexto Poder, Dinorah Girón, was arrested by officers of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin). The arrest was because of a front page the publication had produced showing a caricature of women in government, and the publication and distribution of Sexto Poder was banned. The court freed Girón on condition she appear every 15 days, on a charge of instigation to hatred, vilification and sexism, along with the weekly’s editor, Leocenis García. On August 23, shortly after the ban on distribution of Sexto Poder was lifted, García turned himself in to the local National Guard headquarters in Zulia and he was transferred to Caracas, where he remains under arrest. On September 2, the Caracas 9 the District Court , presided over by Judge Denisse Bocanegra, upheld the preventive detention of García.