IAPA Midyear Meeting 2017

Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

March 31 – April 3


Acts of intimidation, as well as institutional and physical violence that criminalizes those who seek out and disseminate information, have grown worse in this period. At the same time, the political and economic crisis has escalated to unprecedented levels.

The onslaught is being carried out not only against the media, but against all sectors of society that are demanding their rights and engaging in protest. Journalists and news photographers are among the main targets of these actions by police, the military, paramilitary groups, and the courts.

A recurring practice has been the expulsion of journalists from streets where protests are occurring, as a way of preventing them from reporting on public demands and the repressive actions by the government's so-called security forces. One hundred twenty-three acts of intimidation occurred in 2016.

To prevent journalists, news photographers, and citizen reporters from covering public events, the regime employs physical and verbal violence, intimidation and bullying, theft and confiscation of equipment, and eviction from public areas or public buildings. The government uses its media power to denigrate and insult journalists, editors, and media outlets.

The government's silence on the scarcity of goods and inflation undermines the people's right to be informed. Transparent, reliable indicators are lacking for the steady deterioration of nutrition and health care.

Sources tied to the Venezuelan Central Bank said inflation in the first half of the year was at 176.2%, six months after the Economic Emergency Decree took effect, while the International Monetary Fund estimated the inflation rate at 720% for 2016.

Security forces, violent groups, and private citizens resort to forcible expulsions and the confiscation and theft of equipment to prevent people from recording incidents. More than half of the victims are journalists. News photographers have often been targeted in these assaults, threats, and acts of intimidation. Media outlets are seeing their offices attacked or are targeted in judicial proceedings. Court cases are also brought against media owners, executives, and editorial boards. The security forces have ignored victims' complaints, whether by complicity with violent groups or by omission.

Connectivity in Venezuela remains deficient. Ookla's ranking of internet speed placed Venezuela 194th in the world, with an average connection speed of 2.23 megabytes per second.

The country's leading telecommunications carrier, Compañía Anónima Nacional Teléfonos de Venezuela (Cantv) — which includes Movilnet, one of the three mobile phone carriers — is state-owned. Slow speeds and poor quality of service combine to impose severe limitations on access.

Companies are experiencing economic constraints and lack the foreign currency needed to keep their platforms properly up to date. The regulatory agency has ordered a freeze on rate hikes.

However, amid the steady decline of the independent media and the continuing increase in attacks on the press, the internet has become more significant. In response, the government has stepped up its online attacks by deploying hackers, blocking signals, and conducting acts of intimidation.

Personal accounts and websites of journalists, media outlets, and institutions have been attacked.

On November 27, Andrés Eloy Méndez, director of the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel), said that a comparative-law study is being carried out to regulate use of the internet and new technologies. "Social media are very dangerous; abominable things have been done there under the cover of anonymity," Méndez said to Venevisión. "We are considering a measure and we will regulate this, because we have the duty and the authority to do so."

Censorship, judicial harassment, and legal and administrative restrictions have been used by various government entities to punish editorial lines critical of the regime and its officials.

The regime's policy of monopolization over newsprint, implemented through the establishment of Corporación Maneiro in 2013, has grown worse. Media outlets critical of the government are particularly hard-hit by the "scarcity" of newsprint.

In the past three years, seven newspapers have indefinitely suspended circulation due to a lack of newsprint.

Corporación Maneiro imposes bureaucratic obstacles, delays sales, fails to meet deadlines, and uses discretionary criteria in sales. Twenty newspapers temporarily stopped circulating, nine of them in 2016, after severe crises in their ability to obtain supplies, and most of them underwent significant downsizing and format changes.

Twelve media outlets based in Caracas and in the states of Monagas and Zulia suspended circulation or adjusted their printing and circulation volumes during the Christmas season in order to save paper: El Nuevo País, Revista Z, and El Nacional newspaper; the regional newspapers La Verdad de Monagas, El Sol de Maturín, El Oriental, La Prensa de Monagas, and El Periódico de Monagas; the newspapers La Verdad and Qué Pasa, in the state of Zulia; and the newspaper El Carabobeño, in the state of Carabobo.

The latter half of 2016 saw 22 print media outlets in Caracas and 11 different states reduce their number of pages or suspend the use of inserts and special editions.

The newspapers reporting such problems were Tal Cual and the newsweekly La Razón, in Caracas; El Norte, El Metropolitano, Nueva Prensa, and Hora Cero, in the state of Anzoátegui; Nueva Prensa de Guayana and Correo del Caroní, in the state of Bolívar; El Carabobeño, Notitarde, and La Costa, in the state of Carabobo; Diario Región, in the state of Sucre; La Mañana and Nuevo Día, in the state of Falcón; El Clarín, in the state of Aragua; El Impulso, in the state of Lara; Diario La Nación, in the state of Táchira; La Verdad, Qué Pasa, El Regional, and Versión Final, in the state of Zulia; and Diario Los Andes, which circulates in the states of Mérida, Táchira, and Trujillo.

Many of these media outlets no longer circulate in print or only do so on a sporadic basis.

The foreign press has also been attacked by the regime. In only two months, 17 foreign journalists were prevented from doing their jobs.

On February 15, Conatel censored and therefore ordered cable operators and other subscription-based television services to cease broadcasting CNN en Español after which the chain began to transmit only on the internet. This decision was spurred by the government's displeasure with an investigative report titled "Pasaporte en la sombra" (Passport in the Dark). Among those accused of involvement in the black market for passports are Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez and the current vice president, Tareck El Aissami.

Conatel issued a statement about CNN en Español urging media outlets, media owners, holders of radio frequency licenses, online media operators, journalists, correspondents, and in general anyone with access to means of dissemination to share accurate, timely information in accordance with the values of Venezuelan society.

Cyberattacks on the websites of nongovernmental organizations are on the rise. Such was the case with Correo del Caroní, whose newsroom chief confirmed that they became aware of a cyberattack after users were unable to access the website.

Attacks have also been carried out on Acción Solidaria, an NGO that advocates for persons with HIV/AIDS in Venezuela. The Twitter account of the Venezuela Episcopal Conference posted a message on March 10 reporting that its website had been hacked and hijacked, and this occurred intermittently over the course of 10 days.

In 2017 IPYS-Venezuela registered an increase in the number of reported denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on news websites in Venezuela. The first such attack to be reported was against, which was offline from February 16 to February 18.

From March 8 to March 10, DDoS attacks were carried out on the websites of Caraota Digital and El Pitazo, as well as a hacking attempt on Provea. Similar attacks were carried out against and

These attacks occurred after the website of the television program "Con el mazo dando" (Hammering Away), hosted by Diosdado Cabello, on March 3 posted an article in which 45 Venezuelan NGOs were accused of conspiring against the government.

The government has hired specialists from various parts of the world to silence the flow of news and opinion by attacking servers and blocking access through Venezuela's internet platforms.

Uncertainty continues to hover over the exiled publishers and journalists. Their trials have not proceeded, and in the pro-government media they have been threatened with incarceration should they return to Venezuela.

Braulio Jatar is the only publisher behind bars in Venezuela. He has been held in inhumane conditions, in three different prisons, for more than 60 days. Jatar, who is of Chilean-Venezuelan nationality, is the editor and publisher of the news site Reporte Confidencial, based in Margarita, state of Nueva Esparta.

According to his family members and attorneys, he was convicted of money laundering. Reporte Confidencial had sharply criticized President Nicolás Maduro in his campaign visit to Margarita.

The only "evidence" presented against Braulio Jatar was a report by the military counterintelligence agency accusing the website director of being a "terrorist" and a "traitor to the homeland."

Timeline available here.