01 October 2015


Attacks on freedom of expression and of the press are part of the deteriorated social and institutional context of what is happening in the country. All the essential elements of democracy have yielded. Independent journalism and the force fashioning public opinion are broken, there being imposed a communication totalitarianism of the government. It is a tyranny carried out and shared by President Nicolás Maduro Moros and the head of the National Assembly, Captain Diosdado Cabello. Cabello, according to the NGO Espacio Público (Public Space), is the author of 40% of the violations noted against journalists, ordered the prosecution and prohibition from leaving the country of 22 executives of the daily newspaper El Nacional, the weekly paper Tal Cual and the Web site La Patilla. Miguel Henrique Otero and Alberto Ravell, their publishers, are added to the legion of political exiles. These media reproduced a news item published by the Spanish newspaper ABC in which an aide of Hugo Chávez, Naval Captain Leamsy Salazar, then Cabello’s security chief, said that Cabello was heading the so-called Los Soles cartel and took part in international drug trafficking. Judge María Eugenia Núñez is in charge, at Cabello’s request, of giving the restriction order that prevents the owners and executives of these media from leaving Venezuela. Venezuelan Foreign Minsiter Delcy Rodríguez blamed the Colombian media for exaggerating the human rights crisis that has been unfolding since August at the border between the two countries. In late August, President Nicolás Maduro decreed a state of emergency after an attack by unknown assailants in the border region injured Venezuelan soldiers and one civilian. Maduro blamed the attack on Colombian paramilitaries and the criminal activity that affects the border region, and this was his rationale for deporting more than one thousand Colombians. The regime and its Supreme Tribunal, violating the Constitution and international law, ordered not to obey the decision of the Inter-American Human Rights Court that recently declared Venezuela as being responsible for having violated the American Convention on Human Rights, ordering it restore the signal and assets confiscated from Radio Caracas Televisión. The United Nations, through its High Commissioner for Human Rights, declared itself to be “concerned” at “the lack of independence of the Judicial Branch regarding the Executive Branch” in Venezuela. The Rapporteur Against Torture confirmed that there had been victims of cruel and degrading treatment several political prisoners for having expressed an opinion. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions said that opposition leader Leopoldo López has been arbitrarily jailed and sentenced to 13 years in prison without proof nor right to defense. The newspapers El Carabobeño, El Correo del Caroní, El Impulso, El Nacional, El Regional del Zulia are being denied or rationed by the government newsprint or foreign exchange they require for the purchase of supplies as a direct means of imposing censorship on them; meanwhile newsprint is provided to newspapers that is printed and distributed free of charge in five states by the state-owned newsprint monopoly Editorial Maneiro. El Carabobeño in particular is a victim of the tacit ban by the governor of that state on meeting its needs for newsprint. The official networks and their indiscriminate use for proselytizing and propaganda on radio and television continue to threaten freedom of expression in Venezuela. Due to all these facts 35 former Latin American presidents, under the auspices of IDEA (Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas) have endorsed the Declaration of Bogotá which states “give your decided support and scrutiny so that the Venezuelans may count on a set of guarantees and just competiveness, and transparency, to allow them to carry out their commitment to go to the polling stations.” They also asked for the prevention of suspension of guarantees and military obstructing the normal holding of some democratic elections, and that the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Union fight to achieve a qualified observation of the technological-electoral framework imposed by the dictatorship. More than 20 laws on cybernetic, satellite or cable communications, access to public information, prohibition of censorship or criminal prosecution of offenses of opinion are harassing the country’s media and journalists. There has been imposed a regime of lies and pretense of legality. The United Nations Human Rights Committee on access to public information declared that there exists a restrictive legal framework that is affecting six sectors of national public life – The Law of the Central Bank of Venezuela establishes that its director has discretional power to determine the confidentiality of any information tat he may consider a threat to security and monetary stability.   The Law on Public Contracts establishes that contracts of acquisition, works and services are not of free access, thus access to contract documents is limited solely to the bidders. The Presidential Decree on Creation of the Strategic Security and Protection of the Fatherland Center (CESPPA), a dependency of President Maduro, says that its director can declare as secret, classified or for limited dissemination “any information, fact or circumstance that is processed by said body and is of strategic interest for the security of the nation.” The National Assembly Rules on Debates establish that “the recording of activities of the National Assembly shall be confidential,” and also prohibit the entrance of journalists into the sessions room, with the exception of those working for the Assembly’s TV channel. The Press and Society Institute this year noted 287 violations of the right to freedom of expression, between attacks on journalists, criminalization of the work of the press and limits on access to information. Of the 287 violations that occurred 237 involved privately-owned media, 14 foreign media, 11 state-owned media, especially in Caracas, Tachira state, with is on the border with Colombia, and Aragua, Monagas and Carabobo states. Other relevant incidents: In March, in addition to the Cabello lawsuit against the publishers, Maduro accused the media of not reporting on his administration and Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz called for regulation of information on social media. The Supreme Court fined the Coro newspaper La Mañana for publishing pictures of a violent nature. In April the government accused Diario Las Américas of Miami, Florida, of waging a campaign against Cabello, while the Correo del Caroní changed into a weekly, after circulating as a daily for 37 years, for lack of newsprint. The IAPA denounced the use of the state-run Editorial Alfredo Maneiro publishing company and the prohibition of foreign exchange to import newsprint as a means of punishing the independent press. Maduro accused CNN of being the biggest network of lies about the country. The Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) detained journalist Gerald Evans for taking photographs in Plaza Venezuela square of people getting aboard an alternative means of transport so as to paralyze the Caracas subway system. Noti-Cerro in Delta Amacuro shut down after 28 years of existence, also for lack of newsprint. The Armed Forces seized taped material from reporter Medelyn Palmar for having covered a situation of natural emergency being lived by residents of El Diluvio in Zulia state. For placing an opinion on Facebook about foreign exchange journalist Eliana Andrade of the program “Polos Encontrados” broadcast by TVS television in Aragua, was fired by freelance producer Erick Ramírez, at that time the Lamas city mayor. The chairman of the Electrical Committee of the Lara State Engineers Association, Luis Vasquez Corro, was being held at the headquarters of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) after having spoken to the newspaper El Impulso about the critical situation of the El Guri hydroelectric dam and he was charged, under terms of Article 296 of the Penal Code, with disseminating false information, punishable by two to five years’ imprisonment. In May Tal Cual, one of the daily newspapers sued by Cabello, turned into a weekly for lack of newsprint. Maduro accused the news agencies AP, Reuters, AFP and EFE of being war machines. El Impulso dropped to one section for lack of newsprint. El Siglo of Maracay complained of not having newsprint, with 321 jobs at risk of being lost. The Attorney General’s Office called in publisher Teodoro Petkoff to report on journalist Omar Pineda, and without explaining the reasons banned him from leaving the country. Luis Córdoba, a journalist with El Tiempo in Anzoátegui, was beaten up and he formally complained to the Public Prosecutor’s Office that those responsible were members of the Anaco police force and of the Bolivarian National Police. Journalist Horacio Giusti of the Venezuelan Penal Forum, an NGO protecting human rights, was beaten up by unidentified assailants. The Bolivarian Intelligence Service threatened journalist Odell López of the newspaper 2001 for giving coverage of former presidents Pastrana and Quiroga, who visited López and Ledezma in Caracas. The Central Bank of Venezuela hid figures of the national economy and discouraged public awareness of them. CONATEL denied to provide information on opposition Web sites that it systematically blocks. Cabello railed against the newspaper El Nacional and Telemundo television over the soap opera “El señor de los cielos” (The Man From Heaven) which recreated the Los Soles cartel and the alleged connection of the government and the military with international drug smuggling. In June CONATEL admitted that it had blocked 924 links of the Web site Dollar Today and another 1,060 sites at the request of the authorities and taken off the air NTN24 television channel for promoting “social agitation.” Shots were fired at journalist Helena Santinés, her colleague Pedro Torres was beaten and cameraman Alejandro Ledo was thrown from the second floor by people working for the Mario Briceño Iragorry Mayor’s Office in Aragua state. The El Carabobeño newspaper’s children’s section was closed down due to lack of newsprint. The Vargas state newspaper La Verdad was shut down on the orders of the governor, Gen. Jorge Luis García Carneiro, until it paid its taxes. Miranda state opposition governor Henrique Capriles was notified on Twitter of a lawsuit fled by Interior Minister Gustavo González López and other generals. Gabriela Di Giancaterino of the Táchira state newspaper La Nación was detained for having taken a photo on the border during military anti-drug maneuvers in Peracal, San Antonio. A member of the judicial police (CICPC) stripped bare and insulted female reporter Beatriz Lara in Villa de Cura for covering a transfer of high-risk prison inmates. In July El Universal was prohibited from publishing an op-ed piece about lack of protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual  groups written by Rafael Garrido. It was discovered that CONATEL collaborated with the Bolivarian Intelligence Service to detain Tweeters who were writing against the regime. National Assembly Vice President Elvis Amoroso accused publisher Miguel Henrique Otero of being an arms trafficker. During looting occurring in Bolívar state armed motorcyclists and pro-government militants attacked news photographers Carlos León and Luis Tovar and reporter Claudia Páez, it was reported by Correo del Caroní. Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza accused the radio station Fe y Alegría 620 AM in Guasadualito, Apure state, of the crime of engaging in media terrorism for having covered havoc caused by rains in the region. Attacked were cameraman Miguel Lárez and reporter Gladys Momgua for giving coverage to a line of consumers outside the Abastos Bicentenario grocery store in Anzoátegui state. Transparencia Venezuela filed a lawsuit against the Central Bank president for not publishing the country’s economic data. Wikileaks reported on the purchase from the Italian company Hacking Team of software for spying on telephone calls in Venezuela by the Interior and Justice Ministry. Taken off the air was the community radio program “Al son de la Kalle” which was hosted by journalist Manuel Naveda and broadcast by radio station 107.3 FM, for having criticized the municipal government of Pueblo Nuevo, Falcón state. Nazaret Montilla, a journalist with the Anzoétegui state newspaper El Norte, had a weapon pointed to his face by police officers who sought to arrest him for covering a massive presence of consumers at the Abastos Bicentenario grocery store owned by the government. Espacio Public and the National Journalists Association sought constitutional protection for the suspended television channel NTN24 and against the state agency CONATEL. In August Cabello linked journalist Damián Prat of Correo del Caroní and Tal Cual to an alleged “Guayanaso Plan” consisting of attacks on electric transmission towers. He then harassed human rights defender Marino Alvarado and the media outlets El Nacional, La Patilla, Efecto Cocuyo, Notitarde and El Carabobeño for speaking about the occurrence of a massive robbery in Tucacas, with the aim of diverting attention from the popular protest in that zone his wife receives as the government’s Minister of Tourism. The IAPA urged the Venezuelan government to ensure fair treatment and due process for publisher Leocenis García of Sexto Poder, who continues to have his freedom restricted. The Association of Foreign News Correspondents reported that CNN correspondent Osmary Hernández was the object of attacks and taunts by the government, accused of being a terrorist by the Information Ministry. Cabello announced that the courts had admitted his lawsuit against the executives of El Nacional, Tal Cual and La Patilla. The Twitter account of journalist Ibéyise Pacheco was intercepted by the government. The lawyer of Venezuelan alternate ambassador to the United Nations María Gabriela Chávez threatened Diario Las Américas of Miami, Florida, for having published on its Web site that the daughter of late President Hugo Chávez “may be Venezuela’s richest woman.” In September Cabello questioned the academic visit that was made to Venezuela by United Nations Rapporteur Michael Frost and for training human rights defenders in how to formulate their denunciations. A raid was carried out on the home of journalist Ibéyise Pacheco, today in exile. Táchira State Governor José Vielma Mora accused the newspaper La Nación of engaging in a campaign of misinformation about the crisis with Colombia. El Pauta news Web site journalist Milagros Rivero was arrested by the National Guard while covering events near the commercial establishment Farmatodo. Juan Guaidó, an opposition member of Congress, was held in the Palace of Justice for having taken photos during the final hearing in the trial of political leader Leopoldo López, while 20 Venezuelan and international journalists were harassed and attacked. The state communications agency CONATEL is attacking virulently and with discriminatory treatment Venezuelan radio news anchor César Miguel Rondón for having interviewed the mayor of Cúcuta, Colombia, allowing him to express himself freely and harshly against the government of Maduro and the action of his military on the border. The daily Los Andes is now a weekly publication for the lack of supply of newsprint in Venezuela.