Report to the IAPA
March 28, 2020


Freedom of the press and of expression in this period continued to be besieged by the Nicolás Maduro regime, this being translated into direct attacks and closures of news media, as well as arbitrary detentions and attacks upon journalists during coverage of public demonstrations or following their denunciations of corruption and criticisms of those in power.

For all this type of attacks and aggressions the regime not only is using usual instruments of repression but also creative methods of persecution. One of them became evident with the detention on November 19 of Ana Belén Tovar, operations manager of Venmedios, a press clipping firm dedicated to the collection and distribution of media's news materials.

Despite the lack of due process and that he is not charged with any crime Tova still remains in a jail cell of the Military Counter-Intelligence General Directorate. She is accused of sending material through her information clipping system of the Web site Entorno Inteligente which published notes on irregularities committed by Popular Power for Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López.

Another symptomatic case of the repression by the regime is that of graphic reporter of the Dólar Today Web site Jesús Medina Ezaine He was freed on January 6 after 14 months in a military jail. His offense was a report on the country's hospital crisis. He was arrested on August 29, 2018, accused of five unfounded offenses: legitimization of capital, association to commit crime, undue earnings and criminal association. He was freed after intense campaigns by Foro Penal, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations. He continues undergoing a periodic requirement of presentations.

Another trend is the systematic attack on reporters in which their photo and video cameras, mobile phones, recorders and often money and documents, are stolen. These are attacks are carried out by officials, public employees, members of the military, police and paramilitaries. The violence is more evident during public demonstrations when the journalists are more exposed and in official offices where entrance is prohibited. Many times the journalists, in order to free themselves of the attacks and arbitrary detentions, are obliged to erase their materials or they are stolen from them and their work equipment broken.

On October 21 four unidentified people beat, stole equipment from and kidnapped for several hours freelance photographer Julio César Rojas in Acarigua. They accused him of having an Instagram account in which he denounces cases of corruption.

Several radio stations have been attacked and looted and their broadcast equipment destroyed. Also they are threatened that they will be destroyed if they do not remove from their programs content that is uncomfortable for the government. Another procedure carried out by CONATEL is to wait until the concessions end, in order to move to a shutdown and theft of the equipment.

In many cases the media suffer technological attacks, such as blockage of Web sites, blockage of telephone service and hacking of personal accounts of the journalists and executives. According to Netblocks, an organization that monitors global blackouts on the net, the Maduro regime was the most active in the world in 2019 in interrupting Internet services.

Diosdado Cabello continues using his program Con el mazo dando to threaten media and journalists. Usual are his insults against the owners and reporters of El Nacional. He threatened several times that he is going to expropiate the newspaper's installations in order to install there a Bolivarian journalism school.

Some of the aggressions in this period:

On October 22 four persons aboard a truck kidnapped for several hours Julio César Rojas, a freelance photographer in Portuguesa state, who was linked to the Acaigua City account, from which are made denunciations of persons with businesses linked to Chavism.

On October 24 Maduro followers stole the telephone of news photographer Andrés Rodríguez of ElPitazoTV. This occurred during a march as Cabello was ending his platform speech. They also attempted to rob his camera.

On October 26 José Rivas, mayor of Tinaco in Cojedes state, threatened Ritmos 96.9 journalist Eduardo González. "He is a creator of lies and that's why we have to attack him. I tell Ritmos so they act immediately, and that is not a threat."

On October 29 journalist Sulay García and cameraman Castor Rodríguez of VPITV in Apure state were attacked by groups of government supporters during an act by political leader María Corina Machado.

On October 30 in Anzoátegui state there was ordered the shutdown of the radio program "Gente de Aquí" hosted by journalist Ysbelsy Hernández on the Unión Radio circuit.

On November 5 CONATEL expropriated equipment and suspended the broadcast of Jet 95.3 FM in Punto Fijo, Falcón state.

On November 19 the newspaper Diario Primicia, in Bolívar state, denounced that a person identified as its reporter does not belong to its news team.

Dgcim officials detained the journalists that were giving coverage to a raid, Miguel Dasilva and Roger Castillo of Caraota Digital, and Andrea Espinoza, Jonathan Bello and Danger Zorrilla of VPITV. Four hours later they were freed without there being returned their work equipment and their telephones.

On November 20, under presure from CONATEL, radio station Dinámica 95.5 FM in Bolívar state took off the air the program "Polémica" hosted by Solito Decán.

On November 26 there was removed from the programming of radio station 94.5 FM stereo circuit in Calabozo, Guárico state, the segment "Hablan las Parroquias."

On November 29 CONATEL took over equipment and shut down radio station Imaginación 94.1 FM in Elorza, Apure state, The owner, José Galindo, was detained for several hours by officers of the National Guard. The media outlet had been on air for one month and its documentaiton was correct.

On December 18 seven officials of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) raided the offices of the Vebepress channel in the town of Las Mercedes. After two hours they allowed the workers to leave, but kept there a representative of the media outlet and two lawyers.

The regime shut down the offices of Venepress, accusing the media outlet of giving legal standard of capitals, terrorism and association to commit crime.

On December 18 the Web site Mérida Digital was attacked and access to it was blocked for three days. The media outlet suffered three hacking in 2019.

On December 21 journalist Victor Hugas and a congressman were arbitrarily detained by a Maduro security body. They were freed the following day.

On January 5 the Maduro regime denied the accreditation and access of national and international media to the Legislative Palace, where a new period of sessions was being installed. At the orders of Minco the affected media were: Globovisión, La Verdad de Vargas, VP, Caraota Digital, El Nacional, Unidad, El Diario, El Nuevo País, HispanoPost, ViceNews, DPA, 800 noticias, EvTv, AP, Tal Cuál, Efecto Cocuyo, Efe, AFP, VPI, VOA, Univisión, Te lo cuento, ABC, NTN24, El Pitazo, Venepress, RCN, Tv Venezuela, Blu Radio, CNV24, Crónica 1, Telemundo 51 and CNN.

That day officials wih anti-bullet waistcoats installed themselves outside the headquarters of TVVnoticias and VivoPlaynet in La Florida, Caracas.

There was released from jail reporter Jesús Medina, who was a year and four months behind bars accused of instigation and ganging up.

On January 7 armed gangs attacked, robbed and beat up journalists Francesco Manetto of the Spanish newspaper El País and Manuel Cobela of Venevisión. They were robbed of their equipment and personal documents.

On January 13 the Monagas newspaper announced that it will no longer circulate due to lack of supplies and because it does not have fuel for the distribution in the 13 municipalities of the state.

On January 24 journalists of national and international media were pulled out of the headquarters of the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps (Cicpc) in the Cañana de Azúcar morgue, in Aragua state, when they tried to find details about persons who died in Cagua. The VPITV team was prohibited from re-entering.

On January 22 Cabello assailed the editor of La Patilla, Aberto Ravell, claiming that he will go against all "traitors" that, according to him, are calling for invasion.

CONATEL ordered the shutdown of radio station Aventura 91.3 FM in Maracaibo, Zulia state, which is part of the communications group It alleged the expiry of its concession.

On January 29 Natoinal Guard Lieutenant Colonel Malaguera Hernández kept detained journalist Mildred Manríquez in the offices of the vice presidency of the National Assembly. Her identification was taken and was returned after the reporter made a question to Cabello.

On February 1 the Web site was blocked by the Cantv state telephone company after there was published a special report on the company's conditions.

On February 11 news teams that were waiting for the arrival of Juan Guaidó at the Simón Bolívar international airport were harassed by government workers of Vargas, of Conviasa, and by a Catia La Mar group. Outside the airport several reporters were beaten. The attackers were carrying knives.

Andreina Ramos and her cameraman, Rafael Riera, of VPITV in Lara state, were thrown out of the Antonio María Pineda Central Hospital in Barquisimeto after they were prohibited from making interviews there and they were taken to the offices of the social service headquarters.

On February 29 armed groups attacked journalists and press workers in Lara state. The attackers carried firearms, made gunshots in the air and sought out the reporters in the places where they were hiding.

On March 5 Cabello, through the government channel, discredited journalist Edward Rodríguez, Commnication Director of the National Assembly and of the Internal Presidency of the Republic, accusing him of using a news item regarding an alleged attack upon Juan Guaidó.

On March 12 officials of Dgcim, the National Electrical Corporation (Corpoelec) and collectives intimidated reporter José Gregorio Rojas and female camera operator Claudia García of VPITV in Mérida state.

Journalists Darvinson Rojas and Beatriz Rodríguez were detained for reporting about people affected by COVID-19. Rodríguez, from the La Verdad de Vargas newspaper in La Guaira state, was released after being pressured to reveal her sources. Rojas, from the Victims Monitoring Observatory, has been detained since March 21 and was accused of instigating hatred and public instigation.