IAPA Midyear Meeting 2018

Medellín, Colombia

Systematic violence against journalists and news media has worsened in this period. All the indicators concerning press freedom show an alarming deterioration.

The economic and financial crisis continues claiming victims among the news media. Nine newspapers (El Mío, Tal Cual, La Nación, El Oriental, El Tiempo, El Impulso, El Informador, La Prensa and Versión Final) ceased publishing in this period due to lack of newsprint and other supplies. The state company Corporación Alfredo Maneiro, which has a monopoly in the sale and distribution of newsprint, continues being used as a tool of discrimination to punish the press. There also closed down 49 audiovisual news media (46 radio stations and three television channels) as a result of the economic crisis, lack of advertising and government asphyxia aimed at critical and independent media.

According to IPYS Venezuela from August 2013 to February 2018 there ceased circulating 35 newspapers, of this number 18 definitively stopped printing and 16 temporarily suspended their print versions.

Violence is a government policy, a plan conceived and carried out by units of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, in particular the Bolivarian National Guard, to which are added the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), Military Intelligence National Office (DGCIM), Special Action Forces (FAES), Bolivarian National Police (PNB), other police forces, and paramilitary groups and criminal gangs. Several criminals have been identified, photographed or filmed. The level of protection by the government is so high that on February 26 one of these gangs paraded in Caracas with high-caliber weapons. No authority reacted.

Military tribunals are being used to jail and arraign civilians, including journalists and citizen reporters. In this military sphere those being tried enter into a tunnel of misinformation, abuses, unawareness of the proceedings and isolation.

The Judicial Branch does not recognize the right to practice journalism, nor does it punish those responsible for violence against media and reporters.

Those in uniform threaten, intimidate, beat up, rob and detain journalists under any circumstance. They order them to erase photos, videos or audios and they take away their mobile phones, video or photo cameras and recorders.

The National Press Workers Union documented 498 aggressions and 66 arrests of journalists in 2017.

The most outstanding events in this period:

On October 18 Diosdado Cabello in the program Con el Mazo Dando tackled the editor of the newspaper El Nacional, Miguel Henrique Otero. "I am waiting for you down here. When you come back you will be jailed."

On November 2 attacked and detained was Carlos Landaeta, finance secretary of the News Photographers Circle, and Dailí Gómez, freelance photographer. They had gone to the District Attorney's Office to denounce attacks.

On November 3 there ceased publication of the newspaper El Mío, in Anzoátegui, for lack of newsprint.

On November 4 the editor of the newspaper El Norte in Anzoátegui says that she was threatened by agents of the Military Intelligence General Office during a raid on the paper.

On November 8 the National Constituent Assembly which dissolved the elected Legislative Branch unanimously approved the "Anti-Hate Law, for Peaceful Coexistence and Tolerance." The 25-article statute punishes with up to 20 years imprisonment "incitement to hatred," a condition that can be attributed to demonstrations on the public highway in protest against the government or that express criticisms and opinions in social media and in news media.

The law, under very ambiguous concepts, considers punishments of media that transmit propaganda and political parties that promote "Fascism." It also sets punishments of 8 to 10 years in prison of police officers and members of the military that do not pursue these hate crimes.

On November 12, 50 paramilitaries invaded the offices of El Nuevo País, in the San Agustín neighborhood of Caracas. They took over the building and covered the newspaper's logo with a banner of the National Constituent Assembly.

On December 10 pro-government people in Libertador Avenue in Caracas blockaded the team of Vivo Play Net at the Las Palmas college, and prevented all the press from access to the Juan Germán Roscio High School, one of the centers with most voters in the Guarico state capital.

The Plan República group prevented access by the TRV, Tic Tv, Televen, El Periodiquito, El Aragueño, and El Siglo team to the voting center at the

Antonio García Rojas Educational Unit where Tareck El Aissami and Aragua Governor Rodolfo Marco Torres voted.

On December 18 the newspaper Tal Cual converted into a completely digital media outlet in the face of the impossibility of obtaining newsprint.

Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard detained Naleida León and Gladifer Albornoz, reporter and news photographer of television channel Unicable, while they were covering a demonstration in Nueva Esparta state. The National Guard Commander accused the journalists of stirring up a demonstration due to lack of food. They were released three hours later and ordered to sign a document declaring that they had not been mistreated.

On December 31 some 60 people knocked down and plundered a broadcast tower of the radio station Paraguaipoa 92.3FM belonging to the Radio Fe y Alegría circuit in the town of Guajira, Zulia state, without police going to the place.

On January 5, 2018 the newspaper La Nación in Táchira state ceased publishing due to lack of newsprint.

On January 11 Conatel took off the air the program Caiga Quien Caiga (Fall Who May Fall) broadcast by radio stations Mara Ritmo 900AM and B 94.1 FM in Zulia state.

On January 14 officers of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) ordered the team of the digital media outlet VenemundoWeb to erase all the material that it had recorded in a protest in Caracas.

On January 15 the Monagas state newspaper El Oriental announced that it will cease publishing due to lack of supplies (metal plates) and newsprint. It will continue publishing online.

The Military Tribunal ordered deprivation of freedom against photographer Héctor Pedroza, arrested for taking photos of anti-government protests in Maracay, Aragua state. He was accused of incitement to rebellion and terrorism and was jailed in Ramo Verde.

On January 18 in the program Mazo Dando Diosdado Cabello reference was made to the editor of the newspaper El Nacional, Miguel Henrique Otero, as covering up journalists in Madrid in protecting them once they fled the country.

On January 25 after 12 years and 30 days of operations the newspaper El Tiempo, the leading print media of Anzoátegui, decided to shut down its correspondents' offices and cease circulating in the south of the state due to economic problems.

The Military Office interrogated journalist Yndira Lugo‏ of the independent newspaper Región in Monagas state. The newspaper's publisher and editor were called in to make a declaration concerning a denunciation against them for alleged offenses against the Anti-Hate Law.

On January 30 the newspaper El Universal prohibited the publication of political reports in its social media. That led to the resignation of some workers.

On January 31 regional television channel Net Televisión, in Mérida state, announced the closing down of its operations five years after its birth, citing "the lack of human and financial resources."

On February 5 the news website VenemundoWeb received threats through an

e-mail account that warned it not to publish "anti-government" reports.

Journalists of the online media were sued for defamation and libel by Colombian businessman Alex Saab following a journalistic investigation that showed the existence of a relationship with the stock market business Clap and President Nicolás Maduro. The journalists are in exile.

On February 8 Diosdado Cabello in the Con el Mazo Dando program referred to the editor of the newspaper El Nacional, Miguel Henrique Otero, as the one responsible for orchestrating an anti-Venezuela campaign together with newspapers of the world.

On February 20 the newspaper El Impulso ceased circulating, after 114 years, due to lack of newsprint.

Also ceasing to circulate was the newspaper El Informador of Lara state, due to lack of newsprint and other supplies.

The National Press Workers Union and the National Journalists Association of Lara state held a protest in support of the state newspapers El Impulso, El Informador, El Diario de Lara, La Prensa de Lara and El Caroreño.

On February 16 armed persons broke into the station of Radio Mundial 860 in San Cristóbal, Táchira state, and shut off the transmission.

On February 21 attacked were the reporter of the Caraota Digital portal, Gregory Jaimes, and his cameraman outside the Magallanes de Catia Hospital, where they were intending to cover a protest by the health center's workers.

Journalists René Méndez, of NTN24, and Daniel Cáceres, of AFP news agency, were detained for more than four hours by counter-intelligence agents in Lobatera. Their equipment was taken and their material erased.

Also in February CONATEL punished television channel Televen for reporting on violent events.

On March 1 Vanessa Rivas, reporter of the portal Caraota Digital, and her driver were detained by officers of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) near the home of Leopoldo López in Los Palos Grandes, as they planned to report on a denunciation by his wife. Also detained were Luis Gonzálo Pérez, of VenemundoWeb; Rafael Hernández, of NTN24, Karola González and Alejandro Medina, of Univisión.

On March 2, after 33 years there ceased circulating due to lack of supplies the newspaper La Prensa of Barinas. It is the third print newspaper that stopped circulating in the region, previously it was De Frente and La Noticia.

The Zulia state newspaper Versión Final ceased circulating on Sunday, March 11 due to lack of newsprint.

Officers of the Bolivarian National Guard at the headquarters of the Military Counter-Intelligence Directorate General (DGCIM) in Boleíta, took away the press pass of reporter Rafael Hernández, who was covering the detention of former general Miguel Rodríguez Torres, accused of treason.

On March 28 police officers attacked female journalist Ruth Lara Castillo, of @ElPitazoTV and Juan Carlos Hernández and his cameraman Gabriel León of @El_Noticiero during a clash between family members and police at the state's police headquarters.