Miami (April 28, 2021).- The Venezuelan regime intensified violence and judicial harassment against journalists; closed eight radio stations, and imposed selective blockages to media on the internet. Also, after the temporary suspension of Nicolás Maduro's Facebook page, the government announced a bill to regulate social media.
The report on Venezuela was presented at the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) Mid-Year Meeting last week. The organization also issued a resolution condemning the systematic violence to freedom of expression and the press, and demanding an end to the persecution and attacks against journalists and the media.
The situation regarding freedom of expression remains at the same critical level as in recent years. We face an implacable dictatorship that considers independent journalism as a permanent enemy.
At least eight radio stations have been taken off the air nationwide. The Resorte law, which regulates the radio frequency spectrum in a discretionary and punitive manner, is the instrument to silence radio stations. For the time being, the radio stations that still exist are self-censored - due to the terror generated by this law.
On March 11, Michelle Bachelet - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - stated that since September 2020 to date her office registered a "reduction of civic space," and in that period of time they documented "at least 66 cases of intimidation, harassment, disqualification and criminalization of journalists, media, human rights defenders and humanitarian workers." She referred to the seizures and restrictions the media were victims of. "In January alone, at least 3 search and seizure operations were carried out on media premises. To varying degrees, equipment was seized, offices were closed, personnel were intimidated and broadcasts were suspended."
Bachelet also referred to at least 15 cases of intimidation and harassment against journalists in the December 6 elections.
Most of the media that broadcast critical information have migrated to the Internet. However, the government - through the telephone companies - blocks the websites based on what they consider to be harmful news for the Revolution. These are discretionary, punctual and temporary blockades.
Many journalists have been subjected to criminal investigations ordered by government leaders with the purpose of silencing and intimidating them.
On October 12, Sebin agents raided the house of lawyer David Natera Febres - director of the newspaper Correo del Caroní - in the state of Bolívar. They did not allow the lawyer to enter the house. They assured him they would take him back home after he had given his statement.
Natera was released after nearly four hours at the Sebin headquarters in Puerto Ordaz. Days later, Sebin agents raided the newspaper's offices. They did not allow Natera to enter, and those who were inside were not allowed to use their phones. After more than six hours the officers illegally arrested Susana Reyes - Natera's secretary - and journalist María Ramírez Cabello. They were released six hours later.
On the streets, intimidation of journalists is permanent. There are countless cases of threats, theft of equipment, mini kidnappings, physical aggressions by the different repressive entities of the State, as well as by the Colectivos - armed paramilitary groups, protected and employed by the government.
Government officials use the audiovisual media to generate hatred against journalists. According to estimates, five thousand journalists have left the country.
On February 10, Diosdado Cabello - member of the National Assembly - suggested the Public Prosecutor's Office to open an investigation against the news website Efecto Cocuyo. He threatened the media for reporting on the article published by the Colombian magazine Semana about the presence of FARC guerrilla leaders in Venezuelan territory.
The harassment of foreign correspondents continues - an example is the kidnapping of two journalists from NTN24. And getting a permit to enter the country is cumbersome. The National Assembly - elected fraudulently on January 5 by the regime - announced that it will draft a law to regulate social networks and to define criminally what is considered as treason to the homeland.
Freddy Ñañez - Communications Minister - said that the reform of the law seeks to defend "not only the freedom of expression of Nicolás Maduro, but also the right to be informed in a truthful and timely manner of more than 1,200,000 individuals who are part of this account, which broadcasts information of public interest." The excuse was the blocking of Nicolás Maduro's Facebook account - after recommending the use of carvativir to counteract the effects of the pandemic.
Chronology of aggressions and outstanding events. (Only in Spanish)
IAPA is a non-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 the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.