Miami (February 24, 2014)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today condemned the censorship of information in Venezuela by the government of President Nicolas Maduro which manifested in the hostile treatment of journalists and national and foreign media.
Since the initiation of protests against the national government on February 12- which has left 11 dead, 150 injured and dozens arrested- many journalists and official and independent media have seen their work curtailed, either by direct restrictions from the authorities or by the violence suffered during the news coverage.
The highlights in recent days was the revocation of credentials to reporters from the U.S. network CNN in Spanish, after President Maduro accused the medium of "poisoning with their lies." Days before, the signal of Colombian channel NTN24 was banned for "reasons of state”.
IAPA President Elizabeth Ballantine, of The Durango Herald, Durango, Colorado, condemned the “official censorship” and declared that “this unmasks the growing authoritarianism of this government in attempting to govern without transparency and with its back to the public.”
For his part, the chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, declared that Venezuela is being ruled against the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which establishes as a basic principle of democracy the respect for freedom of the press and for human rights.
The pressure and harassment against the media and journalists since the start of protests have left 61 cases of violations of freedom of expression, according to data published by the National Journalists Guild, the National Press Workers Union and the non-governmental organization Espacio Público (Public Space). Of this number, 55 correspond to attacks on journalists during coverage of the protests in several cities from the South American country.
Among these incidents against the official press the president of Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), Yury Pimentel, reported that the headquarters of this public TV channel was attacked with explosive devices by groups opposed to the government that raided the building, set up barricades, set fire to trash and hurled objects against its workers. In this attack reporter Mayra Cienfuegos was shot and wounded.
Journalists are also struggling to fully inform. The government continues to limit access to foreign exchange for the importation of newsprint, ink and other basic supplies that are not manufactured in the country. The majority of newspapers have reduced their number of pages and sections, while a dozen of them have ceased publishing due to lack of newsprint, although they continue to publish online.
It has also been denounced that the government is restricting access to the Internet and has blocked images on Twitter.
The Association of Foreign News Correspondents in Venezuela (APEX) denounced the "assault, abuse, harassment, threats and theft" against the media, reporters and media workers and pointed as responsible " law enforcement, and others individuals who formed rebel groups."
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.