Report to the Midyear Meeting 2019
March 29 to 31
Cartagena, Colombia
There is a war against freedom of expression that the government wages 24 hours a day with its huge police, military, judicial and communications apparatus. Yet there are communication professionals and citizens who take risks to inform, maintain activity, prevent the information blackout, and keep on fighting to regain democracy.

Violence against journalists and the media has worsened - quadrupled in quantitative terms and intensified in all its variants.

During this period, four phenomena have developed.

The first of these is the systematization of attacks on journalists on the streets, in open areas or in the spaces of public institutions. When uniformed individuals show up to prevent or repress a protest, the first thing they do is attack the journalists, force them out of the area, beat them, arrest them, confiscate their equipment, steal from them, and in almost all cases, erase the digital memory from their cameras or mobile devices. The primary task in this design of repression is to remove the media from the scene - using all necessary violence, in order to clear the field and attack the defenseless citizens.

The second phenomenon is a massive, structured program to steal and destroy the equipment used by reporters, editors and website managers. There have been hundreds of cases of destruction of cameras, smart phones, microphones, television cameras, computers and digital files. A radio station has been looted four times. The situation got to the point where the press team headed by journalist Jorge Ramos - from Univisión, was robbed right inside the Miraflores Palace by Nicolás Maduro's security team. The government illegally closed the Super 93.5 FM station in September, which was 28 years old and broadcast regularly in Maracaibo, Zulia State. After six months of this action, there is still no response from the responsible agencies.

The third phenomenon involves attacks on the foreign press. In some cases, foreign journalists are prevented from entering the country at airports. In others, they are arrested, subjected to exhausting and denigrating grilling, robbed and expelled from the country. A plan is in place to prevent reporters and correspondents from reporting the facts.

The fourth phenomenon is the selective suppression of radio and television programs - particularly those of information and opinion, such as those conducted by César Miguel Rondón or Alonso Moleiro and Steninf Olivarez. Both had won important segments of the public, but were taken off the air by order of the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL), the state entity in charge of censoring, dossier building and closing media outlets.

On October 5, the newspaper El Aragueño printed its last paper edition - after 46 years of uninterrupted work in the central region of the country, due to the shortage of paper, ink and plates. The newspaper has migrated to the Internet to continue reporting.

The day before - and for the same reason, the newspaper El Luchador stopped circulating. The newspaper closed after 60 years of service in the State of Bolivar.

On December 14, the last printed edition of El Nacional was published - after 75 years. The efforts of the newspaper have been concentrated on the web - where they have achieved a leading position among the Spanish-language news portals.

The newspaper El Regional del Zulia has not circulated for three months due to lack of access to newsprint. Its website has been hacked frequently. In addition to the fact that the Internet service is deficient and intermittent, the electric service is unstable and the supply of fuel for the power plant is scarce.

Concerning this very real state of emergency, the organization Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de Venezuela reported that between January 1 and March 12, there were 155 violations against freedom of expression. This figure is higher than that of the first six months of 2018 - which totaled 124 cases.

Among the most serious events was the arrest without due process of Luis Carlos Díaz - human rights activist, radio journalist, social networking specialist and trainer for the citizen journalist project Reporteya of El Nacional newspaper. The government accused him of taking part in a conspiracy that produced the alleged cyber-attack that caused a blackout for nearly 100 hours, affecting millions of families, as well as hospitals, patients in operating rooms and connected to life-support machines, underground transportation systems, businesses, shops, ports and airports, the financial system, communications and telecommunications with serious consequences and losses in homes, businesses and institutions.

On Oct. 21, criminals broke into the offices of Univision Noticias in Caracas. In one year, at least six international media outlets in Caracas have been attacked and their computers, cameras and hard drives have been stolen. The attacks affected Univision, NTN24, RCN, Telemundo and Caracol Televisión. As for CNN, its Caracas office has been robbed three times during the year.

On November 13 - according to information published by Revista Late, three of its journalists were arbitrarily arrested in Santa Elena de Uairén, on the border between Venezuela and Brazil. They were covering the migration situation in the area. The three journalists arbitrarily detained were Tiago Henrique da Silva (Brazil), Álvaro Fernández (Spain) and Fernanda Kraide (Brazil).

On Nov. 15 - after more than 30 years of operation, Estudio 96.7FM, in Barquisimeto, Lara state, went off the air. The National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) ordered its closure, citing the expiration of the concession. As is the case with most radio stations, it had requested renewal since 2009 but never got a response. The closure leaves 24 workers unemployed. Minutes after it went off the air, Rebelarte - a radio station run by a pro-government group (Colectivo), occupied the Barquisimeto dial.

On November 16, it was revealed that the graphic reporter Jesús Medina had been imprisoned since August in the military prison of Ramo Verde. His hearing was postponed and he was charged with money laundering, conspiracy to commit a crime, instigating hatred and obtaining illegal profit.

It was more than three years ago in November when - at Diosdado Cabello's request, 22 executives of El Nacional, La Patilla and Tal Cual newspapers were forbidden to leave the country. 14 are in exile, 6 have sought reparation for damages, one did not accept it, another, Teodoro Petkoff, died. The rest remains exiled.

On December 14, several media outlets around the country stopped circulating during the Christmas period to save paper. Diario Caribazo, in Margarita, suspended circulation until January 15, and La Prensa, El Periódico, and El Sol, in Monagas, until January 14.

On 8 January, the Communications Department denied accreditation to international media to cover the event in which Nicolás Maduro was sworn in as president until 2025. It affected Red + Noticias, CNN, BluRadio Colombia, Univisión and Noticias Caracol in Venezuela.

On January 24, officials of the Military Counterintelligence in Maracaibo, Zulia state, raided the headquarters of Global TV and took the regional channel's signal off the air for broadcasting Juan Guaidó's speech, according to the chief of the Commission - who arrived at the media outlet with 15 patrol cars. Aventura TV - a regional television station that shares the headquarters and broadcasting antenna with Global TV, was also off the air. The officials took the security cameras and cut off power to the entire building.

After Guaidó was sworn in as President, Chile's 24 Horas channel became the seventh international television station to be pulled out of the country's cable networks.

On January 30, journalists Mayker Yriarte, of the news portal TV Venezuela, and Ana Rodríguez, of VPITV, were arrested near Miraflores, along with Chilean journalists Rodrigo Pérez and Gonzalo Barahona, of Canal TVN. The new language of the dictatorship: they are not arrested, they are "held"; they are not being interrogated, they are being "interviewed". Venezuelan journalists were released after 10 hours of being arrested, while Chileans were deported 12 hours later.

On February 26, the Univision news team in Venezuela - including Jorge Ramos, was arrested inside the Miraflores Palace where they had gone to interview Maduro. Seven workers were held inside the building and their work equipment was taken away. Their colleagues outside of Palacio lost contact with the detainees for several hours. As they left Miraflores, the Miraflores Univision team was videotaped and escorted along the entire route. They were robbed of all technical equipment and deported.

"What happened was that we were interviewing the leader Nicolás Maduro, and after 17 minutes of interview he didn't like the things we were asking him about the lack of democracy in Venezuela, about the torture, the political prisoners, about the humanitarian crisis they were experiencing. He got up from the interview after I showed him the videos of some young people eating from a garbage truck," Ramos said in a telephone conversation with Univision after he was released.

"They kept us apart, interrogating us," the journalist denounced. Both he and the program's producer were put in a security room and the lights were turned off, according to Ramos' version.

Jorge Rodríguez - the communications minister of the regime, told Univision that it was "not true" that they were being arrested. Rodríguez said Ramos called Maduro a murderer and dictator several times.

On March 8, various media outlets were blocked on YouTube and Google, while users' access to Facebook was intermittent.

These (only in Spanish) are the most outstanding facts.