MIAMI, Florida (May 16, 2018)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today strongly condemned attacks on journalists and legislators and restriction of access to Venezuela's National Assembly as part of an increase in the climate of violence ahead of the May 20 general elections.
Agents of the Bolivarian National Guard attacked, detained and impeded access to Congress to several journalists and legislators, among them Venevisión television cameraman José Rivas, and Congressmen Jony Rahal and Winston Flores. The cameraman said that he was kicked by members of the National Guard and his camera was destroyed. The Congressmen were also beaten and shoved.
The IAPA President and editor of the Peruvian newspaper La República, Gustavo Mohme, declared, "We reiterate our condemnation of these acts of violence that we have been denouncing as being part of a government policy to weaken even more Venezuelan journalists who are carrying out their work in conditions of extreme risk."
Local media and organizations reported that the members of the National Guard who watch over the site of the disabled National Assembly have prevented journalists' access on at least six occasions this month. These incidents occurred in the lead-up to the May 20 presidential elections, questioned by governments and international bodies due to lack of transparency and international observers and on suspicion of fraud.
Roberto Rock, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the Mexican news portal La Silla Rota, added, "There is evident in Venezuela the official intent to do away with independent journalists and media, using all the means at its disposal, among them the Bolivarian National Guard."
Mohme and Rock reiterated their organization's petition last month to the government leaders at the Summit of the Americas that called on them "to encourage more drastic steps that do not allow the regime to carry on in power on the backs of its citizens."
At the last meeting of the IAPA in Medellín, Colombia, Congressman Rahal, together with María Corina Machado, leader of the Unidad Democrática coalition, Luisa Ortega, former Venezuelan Attorney General, and former Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga Ramírez warned about the increase in violence in these months of electoral unrest, where the majority of leaders of the opposition have abstained from participating so as not to legitimize an irregular, fraudulent process of democratic appearance.
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 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.