Report to the 76 IAPA General Assembly
October, 21-23, 2020

During this period, the living conditions of Venezuelans have worsened, social conflict has escalated, as well as the persecution of journalists.

In an infographic published on May 3 by the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP), it was shown that arbitrary detentions, verbal harassment and intimidation, as well as censorship and job insecurity, are all methods used by the Nicolás Maduro regime against the press.

Arbitrary detentions and verbal intimidation are massive and indiscriminate. They occur in any part of the territory and at any time.

Venezuelans face deprivation and devastation. Government agents dissolve any citizen meeting, march, protest or concentration with disproportionate force. There is nowhere to complain about these atrocities because the official agencies are closed.

The military and the police prevent the free circulation of journalists. Mobile units and reporters are kidnapped or attacked. They are threatened, their phones are stolen, their images or sounds are erased, they are beaten and detained. Dozens of journalists were kidnapped for days without their lawyers or family members getting any information about their place of detention or their health condition.

The clear objective of the government and para-governmental forces is to create fear and anxiety among journalists. There were cases in which more than 20 hooded men, carrying long weapons and batons, beat up a journalist and took away his belongings.

Unfortunately, on August 21, Andrés Eloy Nieves Zacarías and Víctor Torres, from Guacamaya TV in Zulia state, were murdered during an alleged operation by the Special Action Forces (FAES) - an offshoot of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) created in 2016 - whose violent actions have been criticized by international organizations. Two days after the murders, on 23 August, Franklin Torres, director of Guacamaya TV, told the SNTP delegate that a police force violently raided the headquarters of the channel and confiscated all the equipment of the television station.

The "Shadow Report" on freedom of expression, freedom of the press and access to information, published in July by the Voices of the South alliance, denounces the systematic abuse of state power, violent aggressions, attacks and threats, disinformation, lack of transparency and censorship, making 2019 the worst year for journalism. 642 alerts were issued - 228% more than the previous year.

These are some of the main aggressions against the press:

On March 26, Alexander Zerlin, a journalist from Rumbera 94.7 FM, in the state of Cojedes, was detained by a National Guard who accused him of causing a disturbance at a service station in San Carlos.

On April 1, journalist Luis Gonzalo Pérez received threats on his phone from six different numbers that mentioned his family and address.

Journalist Charito Rojas, an anchor at Union Radio, received threats on her social networks after being mentioned by Diosdado Cabello in his program "Con el mazo dando".

On April 2, journalist Darvinson Rojas was released under precautionary measures after being detained for 12 days for reporting on the pandemic. He was asked to reveal the sources of the statistics on Covid-19 cases in Miranda. His parents were also arrested.

On April 7th, journalist Mayerlin Villanueva and photographer Luis Cobaría, from the daily La Prensa in the state of Tachira, were detained for four hours by the National Guard when they tried to gain access to the San Antonio fire department.

On April 15, journalist Arnaldo Sumoza was detained in the El Sombrero sector in the state of Guarico. He was filming videos at a protest over the lack of water.

On April 16, a commission from the General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence (DGCIM) raided the house of journalist Sergio Novelli. They took four computers and five telephones.

In the state of Merida, the National Guard detained journalist Elvis Rivas, correspondent from Globovision.

On April 18, journalist Eduardo Galindo was detained for 64 hours at the headquarters of the National Anti-Extortion and Kidnapping Command (Conas), on Avenida 1 de Mayo, in San Fernando de Apure. His wife and nephew were also arrested.

On April 23, Conas arrested radio host Hidalgo Rincón from A. L. Stéreo 89.7 FM in Santa Bárbara, Zulia State, and owner of Sur TV.

On May 4, a crew from the newspaper Nueva Prensa in the state of Guayana was intimidated by DGCIM officials in Puerto Ordaz, after journalist Katiuska González took a photo of a gas station on Paseo Caroni to document complaints about charging for gasoline in dollars. Wladimir Martínez, editor of the newspaper, said that journalists are intimidated so they don't report on what citizens are denouncing.

On May 6, after five months and 16 days of detention at the DGCIM headquarters, Ana Belén Tovar, manager of Venmedios, was released from prison.

On May 11, the newspaper El Vistazo, of Anzoátegui, rejected the accusations of the mayor of the municipality Simón Rodríguez, who accused the newspaper of slandering and yellow journalism.

Eight members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) forced the journalist Luis López from La Verdad de Vargas to erase material about a protest by doctors over the gasoline shortage.

On May 15, Jesús Alberto Segovia Bastidas, reporter for the Septima Jornada web portal in Caracas, was detained by a GNB official at a gas station in La India.

The National Commission of Telecommunications (Conatel) shut off the signal from radio station Rumbera 106.9 FM, which had been operating for 26 years in Ocumare del Tuy, Miranda state.

On May 26, authorities restricted coverage of the arrival of an Iranian ship loaded with gasoline at the Paraguaná Refinery Complex in Falcón state. Only journalists from the governor's office and other government media were allowed access.

On June 1, Eduard Rojas, director of the radio station Tremenda 105.7 FM in Mérida state, was detained without a warrant. He was taken from his home by members of the GNB in Santa Cruz de Mora. He was released three days later.

On June 3, Jorge Cortés, director and host of Mágica 93.3 FM in Ciudad Ojeda, Zulia state, was detained by municipal police officers while recording testimonies at the Morochas central gas station. He was released subject to his reporting to the authorities every 45 days. He was charged with instigation to commit crime.

Carol Romero, journalist for Candela 91.9 FM was beaten and detained by GNB officials, after recording an altercation between guards and civilians at a gas station at Km 7 in Caracas.

On June 5, Carol Romero was presented in court after being missing for more than 30 hours.

DGCIM officials detained reporter Luis Patiño, cameraman Jhonatan Bello, assistant Dangert Zorrilla, and cab driver Oscar Avile, VPITV team, at the Chuao gas station. They were stripped of their identity cards and press credentials. They were released shortly thereafter.

PoliGuárico officials detained and then released freelance photographer Carlos Padilla during a gasoline protest.

On June 19, journalist Mimi Arriaga, coordinator of the portal 800Noticias, was detained and her home was raided by the Scientific, Criminal and Criminalistic Investigation Corps ( CICPC). She was released 24 hours later. On June 20, the CICPC detained journalist Marco Antoima for the same crime as Mimi Arriaga - related to the alleged handling of anonymous accounts on social networks. On August 31, President Maduro pardoned both journalists.

On July 15, Gleybert Ascencio, graphic reporter from the Crónica Uno portal, was detained by the GNB together with two motorized journalists from the digital publication in Plaza Venezuela. They were stripped of their identity cards and press credentials. They were arrested for false testimony and released two hours later.

On July 16, journalist Otilio Rodríguez, director of @CarupanizateCom, was detained for 24 hours in Sucre state and charged with the crime of instigating hatred.

On July 17, the 21st Control Court ratified the arrest of Nicmer Evans, director of the Punto de Corte portal, for the alleged crime of instigation to hatred.

On July 18, the director of Radiomania 89.7 FM, Richard Rodríguez, spent four days in isolation with his wife in Carúpano, under deplorable conditions, waiting to find out whether or not he was a carrier of Covid-19.

On July 31, Adylene Peñalver, an independent journalist in Bolívar state, corroborated alleged damages to the Colombian Consulate in Puerto Ordaz when she was approached by police officers who harassed her and forced her to delete videos and photos.

Officials from the General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence detained William Urdaneta, a photojournalist for the newspaper El Correo del Caroni, while he was taking photos at the Redoma de La Paz in Puerto Ordaz, Bolívar state. He was released after his cell phone and camera memory were confiscated.

Conatel closed the headquarters and shut down the signal of Pura Candela 93.3 FM in Carúpano, Sucre state. Francisco Pino, owner of the station, indicated that they confiscated all his equipment.

On August 5, Francismar Rivas, an intern reporter for the daily El Tiempo, in Anzoátegui state, was detained for one hour by National Guard troops at a gas station located in Guaraguao, after he took some complaints from drivers at the site.

On September 16, Nicolás Maduro - in a Venezolana de Televisión broadcast - called the digital media Monitoreamos a sewer and a manipulator for tweeting what he had said about the December 6 voting. Then the media's web page was blocked.

On September 23, the mayor of Puerto Cabello, Juan Carlos Betancourt, threatened to sue Francisco Chirinos, a journalist from the portal El Pitazo and Alexandra Rojas, from Pateando la Calle, for their coverage of the SEBIN operation against the "Sinsalud" gang - engaged in the resale of medicines.

On September 25, the daily Yaracuy al Día, the only printed media in Yaracuy state, announced that it was ending its circulation due to the impossibility to supply fuel for its fleet of vehicles needed to distribute the newspaper and carry out its journalistic work.

On September 26, the Yaracuy Police launched two pepper spray bombs against reporters Luis Miguel Rodríguez, from the newspaper El Impulso; Astryd Pérez Dudamell, from Noticias Yaracuy; Anthony Mujica, from the radio station Hispana 89.5 FM; and Ricardo Tarazona, from the portal Qué Pasa en Venezuela.

On September 29, the Lechuguinos media account - linked to the government - criminalized the journalistic work and opinions of journalist Luis Olavarrieta on social networks.

On October 12, Sebin officials raided the headquarters of the Correo del Caroní in Puerto Ordaz, Bolívar state. David Natera Febres, director of the newspaper, was held for several hours after registering his residence. On October 14 were also seized the offices in Caracas and the equipment of the portal, whose founder is David José Natera Biliangieri, son of Natera Febres and executive secretary of the National Council of Judicial Defense, installed in early October by the acting President of Venezuela Juan Guaidó. On October 20, Sebin raided the Correo del Caroní facilities again. This was the third proceeding against the Natera family properties in less than 10 days.