Report to the 75th General Assembly of the IAPA

October 4 – 7, 2019

Coral Gables, Florida

During this period the climate for freedom of the press has deteriorated, making journalistic work more uncertain and dangerous.

A number of damaging trends for freedom of the press continue to take hold, of which these are the most important:

A restrictive State policy that is implemented with systematic pressure programs involving various entities, including allied paramilitary groups.

The use of military tribunals to prosecute journalists or citizen reporters results in the total isolation of the detainees and a state of absolute lack of information.

The perpetrators of physical attacks, whether military, police officers or members of paramilitary groups, enjoy total impunity. These attacks occur repeatedly in the streets where armed gangs - on foot or on motorcycles, beat or shoot citizens and journalists reporting on the protests - in front of military units that do nothing to prevent the action of the criminals.

The complicity of the judicial system - which persecutes journalists and does not punish those responsible for the attacks, continues.

The methods used by the military, police, and paramilitaries include the theft of equipment: video and photographic cameras, mobile phones, audio recorders, microphones, and even the personal belongings that the victims carry, such as money, identity papers, medicines, family photos, bags, wallets, purses, and backpacks; something that emerged in the case of journalist Jorge Ramos and the professionals accompanying him, whose equipment was stolen at the Palacio de Miraflores by direct order of Nicolás Maduro.

Repressive practices and the persecution of journalists continue throughout the country - except for those who work for official media or portals.

The practice of journalistic kidnapping has been gradually established. This can happen at any time - even when the journalists are not working – for example when they are leaving home or are inside their own homes. They disappear for days, weeks or months, without their relatives knowing anything about their whereabouts, the reasons for their disappearance, or the physical and mental health in which they find themselves.

Another determining factor is the systematic blockage of media websites and digital portals, to which citizens have no access. The government has developed a complete and costly technological and intelligence structure - funded with public money - aimed at preventing citizens from being informed of what is happening. This blockage program is aimed at media that carry out investigative work on cases of corruption, violation of human rights, and the narco-guerrilla - that enjoys the complicity of military and civilian powers.

Journalists continue to emigrate. Among the five million Venezuelans who have fled to other countries, there are hundreds of reporters, photojournalists, editors, cameramen and media specialists. Those who remain in the country carry out their work in conditions of extreme insecurity, must do various jobs in order to survive, and, in most cases, have to work in unsafe and dangerous environments.

The economic crisis, combined with hyperinflation and the dollarization of daily life, has plunged all media companies into a state of growing decline. The resources needed for the practice of journalism in all its forms have been ravaged by delinquency, economic dysfunctionality, loss of advertisers, growing poverty, hyperinflation, power outages and the demise of small repair and technical companies that helped extend the life of equipment and furniture.

Faced with this situation, it is necessary to implement measures to preserve the remaining structures that defend freedom of expression and the physical integrity of Venezuelan journalists; to create and establish financial support mechanisms for the media, and to keep the anti-freedom of the press issue on the international public agenda.

These are some of the main events of this period:

On April 4, journalists from the TV Venezuela and VPITV were arrested and beaten by the Bolivarian National Guard in the state of Maracaibo while covering a protest over water and power failures. They were forced to erase their material.

On April 13, Conatel ordered the DW Español signal off the air.

On April 18, Frank Thomas Guerra - reporter for the VenePress portal - was arrested by National Police officials. The reporter was covering the delivery of humanitarian aid outside the Red Cross in La Candelaria. He reported that a patrol ran him over and officials on motorcycles arrested him at gunpoint.

National Guard officials detained Swedish journalist Annika Rothstein upon her entry into the country. Four Bolivarian National Guard officials accompanied her while at Simón Bolívar International Airport until she was deported on an Air France flight.

On April 30, Conatel ordered Radio Caracas Radio 750AM to cease broadcasting. The station was taken off the air - the journalists who were broadcasting live reported the incident - after an interview with Juan Guaidó following his message from La Carlota.

The signal from BBC Mundo and CNN International were taken off the DirecTV grid while broadcasting about what was happening in the country.

Also @vesinfiltro confirmed the blockage of ABA Cantv that affected access to YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Junior Muñoz - owner of the radio station Oestereo de Punta de Mata, in the western part of Monagas - was arrested by the National Guard.

Unknown people attacked journalists María Carolina Quintero of VPITV and Gerard Torres of TV Venezuela with pipes and stones while they were inside their car. They were covering the protest on Delicias Avenue and 5 de Julio Avenue in Maracaibo.

The transmitters, receiver and links of the radio station Exitos100.9, in the state of Mérida, were stolen, taking the radio signal off the air.

PNB officers wounded VPITV journalist Gregory Jaimes - hit by mortar shrapnel while covering protests at the Altamira Interchange. He suffered two projectile impacts to his face and arm.

Juan Carlos Neira, an independent photographer, was wounded in the head while covering the repression in the vicinity of the Altamira Interchange.

On May 6, Conatel ordered the radio station La Mega Hertz 96.5FM, located in the Biruaca municipality of Apure state, off the air. The radio station is owned by Congressman Luis Lippa.

Pro-government students took over the provost's office of the UDO in Cumaná and held captive reporters from NVHNoticias. Ramón Vivas and Rafael Antón were locked up for half an hour, after they were let in for an interview.

On May 7, Conatel closed Criolla 92.9 FM in the town of Elorza, Apure state. The equipment was stolen. It was the second radio closed in Apure in less than 24 hours.

On May 8, a dozen journalists were deported by Maduro in less than five months. After being arbitrarily detained by the Sebin, Joan Guirado was expelled from the country and returned to Spain under police surveillance.

On May 10, three programs of FM de Barlovento were cancelled by orders of the mayor of Río Chico, Agustín Manterola. Amanecer con la Noticia, Lo Nuestro and Magazine 97.1, were off the air.

On May 14, the Panorama newspaper said "see you soon" to its readers in Zulia - after more than 100 years of publication. The lack of paper and the impossibility to obtain it, had kept the newspaper in crisis since May, 2018.

On May 16 - near the residence of Iván Simonovis - the Sebin arrested Mayker Iriarte Oliverio, Mariana de Barros, and Héctor Sánchez of TVVenezuela; Romel Gorosabel, producer of CaracolTV; journalist Maoly Aldana, her cameraman and team of technicians for Noticiero de Venevisión; and reporters of Vivo Play Net. They were held incommunicado, without their identity papers. They were released after 3 hours of arbitrary detention.

On May 30, the broadcasting booth of Radio Carora 640 AM was dismantled in the municipality of Torres, in the state of Lara. On June 6 it would have reached 71 years on air. They announced the "forced closure" due to the impossibility to replace their equipment.

On June 4, the press gained access to the Federal Legislative Palace - after six occasions in which the National Guard had denied access. The press went in together with several deputies of the National Assembly. The accredited press managed to enter the Federal Legislative Palace after suffering blows and shoves.

On June 5, Diosdado Cabello threatened to take over the La Patilla portal as a form of payment - given the fine imposed on the media by the Supreme Court of Justice. "Houses, La Patilla, whatever there is. I said I accept payment in kind as well," said Cabello sarcastically on his TV show.

Conatel ordered Visión TV Plus to be taken off the air and closed TVPLUS Radio 94.9FM. Twenty-three pieces of equipment were stolen from the radio station: consoles, computers and microphones. They also took the transmitter from the tower.

On July 3, Poliubaneja agents arrested Televen journalist Jesús Albino and his cameraman Edward Rojas. They were forced to go to the police headquarters, despite having the required documentation of the vehicle they were using. The team was detained for more than half an hour without explanation.

Journalist Braulio Jatar was released from prison on July 5.

On July 9, the Public Prosecutor's Office was asked to investigate the portals El Pitazo, FogonInforma, Táchira Noticias, Noticias Tachirenses, Táchira Norte, Crónica Policial and Reporte.V, for publishing "content that incites violence."

On July 15, a National Guard official threatened and photographed journalists Violeta Santiago of the El Pitazo portal and José Gregorio Rojas of 107.7 ULA FM. The reporters were taking pictures of a gasoline line on Urdaneta Avenue in the state of Mérida.

On August 3, the stations Radio Cultural del Estado Táchira 1.190 AM - belonging to the Government of Táchira - and Radio Mundial 860 AM, went off the air after equipment and transmission cables were stolen.

Conatel closed and seized equipment from Z 89.1 FM station in Valera, Trujillo state, by order of the regional government. Only the furniture was left at headquarters. The station was on a one-month trial period after it began broadcasting on July 23.

On August 9, Conatel seized equipment from Super Station 107.3FM in Yaracuy state. The commission assured that the measure was due to the fact that they operated with an expired permit and clandestinely.

On August 15, Lisbeth Miquilena - reporter for El Noticiero at the TV channel Televen in the state of Nueva Esparta - was held for two hours at the headquarters of the Punta de Piedra National Guard, where she was taken by the director of Gimnasio Vertical de Tubores. She was arrested for taking pictures at the site.

On August 28, Conatel took off the air the FM radio program Bajo La Lupa - an independent radio and TV production for information and opinion - and it was removed from the Unicable TV grid in the state of Nueva Esparta.

On August 31, at least seven journalists were physically and verbally attacked by the security personnel of Acting President Juan Guaidó during a tour of the Maracay free market in Aragua state. The journalists are Mónica Goitía, from the newspaper El Siglo; Carmen Elisa Pecorelli, from TeLoCuentoNews; Glenn Requena, from El Periodiquito and Marynes Matos from TRV.

In September, the website of the news portal Centro de Noticias Venezuela 24 reported more than 12 hours of cyber-attacks aimed at knocking down its domain. The online platform has received more than 1000 attacks.