Miami (February 13, 2014)—An indefinitely long blockage of the signal of television channel NTN24 in Venezuela was described today by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) as “gross censorship” imposed by the government of President Nicolás Maduro to silence independent, informative or critical voices in the South American country.
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared, “It is gross censorship that is not surprising coming from a regime of force that has used these mechanisms to get rid of what it does not like, is different or does not hew the official line.”
The signal of NTN24, an international news channel based in Colombia which is transmitted by cable in Venezuela, was taken off the air abruptly yesterday as it was giving coverage of clashes that occurred in Caracas during protests against the Maduro government that have left at least three people dead and dozens injured and arrested.
During the protest called by university students and which was joined by opposition parties, journalists with international news agencies, such as Agence France Presse and The Associated Press, were attacked by groups of militias. In both cases their cameras were seized.
In addition to NTN24 national television channels abstained from airing images of the protests. These channels are subject to legal and administrative bans on transmitting acts of violence, under penalty of heavy fines and other sanctions. President Maduro has indicated that the official measures seek to do away with “yellow journalism of violence and propaganda” against his regime.
Although no official document was understood to have been handed to the television channel the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) was said to have ordered its cable operators to immediately suspend its signal. The NTN24 director today confirmed in a radio interview with RCN that there exists a Conatel order to take the channel off the air for an indefinite time.
Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, said that the blockage of the international channel “is an act of unquestionable censorship by the government which does not surprise us, as regrettably Venezuela is not a democracy.”
Paolillo recalled that the censorship being imposed by Maduro also affects newspapers in the country, those that are restricted from access to foreign exchange enabling them to import newsprint and other supplies that are not manufactured in the country. A total of 11 newspapers have already shut down or publish only online, while the majority have only a few days left until their newsprint runs out.
Paolillo said in an interview he had last night with NTN24, broadcast on its YouTube channel, that the IAPA will look into the procedures regarding orders with which Directv and Movistar must comply to lower the signal of the Venezuelan programming schedule.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.