Venezuela

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Report to the IAPA 77 General Assembly Virtual
October 19-22, 2021
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Offenses against freedom of expression have intensified during this period. For now, there is no way out of the regime in the short term. The opposition continues to be divided between those who believe that the tyranny of Nicolás Maduro can only be dealt with through confrontation, and those who maintain that the way out is to press for free elections and to participate in as many of them as possible - even if such elections are fraudulent.

The most outstanding event was the seizure of the facilities of El Nacional by the Armed Forces. Based on the defamation lawsuit against El Nacional - filed by Diosdado Cabello - the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the newspaper to pay 13 million dollars to Cabello - for damage to his honor - for publishing information disclosed by Leamsy Salazar (Diosdado Cabello's bodyguard) in the Spanish newspaper ABC and the US newspaper The Wall Street Journal - published by more than 80 media and the main international agencies, which involved Cabello in illicit activities.

By virtue of that ruling and without any legal procedure, the Army took over the newspaper facility, forcing everyone out of the building - including those who had rented space. Since then the Army has been occupying the facilities without any court order to back it up. In this trial there have been all kinds of procedural irregularities that obey the arbitrary instructions given by Cabello to the judicial system - starting with the Supreme Court of Justice.

Miguel Henrique Otero - director of El Nacional - said that it was all a hoax: "it is the manipulation of the Judicial Power to suit Cabello's personal interests." From a company of 1,100 workers with a wide variety of sections and magazines, El Nacional has shrunk

to a hundred employees "limited to the web." The newspaper had space rented to foundations, some Red Cross teams and a clinical laboratory - which were also evicted.

Otero said that he will continue his fight in the Venezuelan courts and has gone to international instances to denounce the outrage. Lawyer Juan Garanton, of El Nacional, requested that "the Public Prosecutor's Office begin an impartial investigation into the armed takeover of the facilities." El Nacional - founded in 1943 - stopped circulating in print in December 2018.

During Maduro's regime, 115 media outlets have disappeared - between 2013 and 2018 - according to a report by the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP). Among them, the Panorama newspaper, from Maracaibo, is unable to print due to the regime's restrictions on the paper supply and was stripped of its website.

In Venezuela there are many independent online media - most of them managed from abroad - and regularly blocked by internet operators on orders from the Executive Power. For these media, and the few that remain in the country, it is very difficult to carry out their work due to the permanent persecution of their journalists. The repressive and violent forces managed by the regime are on the hunt for journalists covering the news - especially those related to protests, Covid-19 and services. They physically assault them and take away their cameras and cell phones.

More than 60% of the population gets the news through the official channels. There is no independent media, television or radio. Those that exist are official or are self-censored. Newspapers and magazines do not have access to free printing due to the lack of access to paper. And the Internet is subject to discretionary blockages or very limited access - the country went from first to last place in Latin America in terms of Internet connectivity.

The situation of the media is catastrophic, almost fulfilling the promise of the Homeland Plan for communicational hegemony - similar to the Cuban model.

Some of the main aggressions against journalists and media during this period:

On April 15, the SNTP denounced that officials linked to the Aragua state governor's office, harassed journalist Gregoria Díaz - correspondent from the Crónica Uno portal and SNTP volunteer delegate - for an article on the shortage of beds for patients with Covid-19.

On April 27, officials of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) detained journalists Edwin Prieto and Lenin Danieri - who were covering a dispute between Yukpas and GNB officials in La Villa del Rosario - for 40 minutes; they stripped them naked and erased material from their equipment.

On May 3, journalist David Rodríguez - a reporter for the Caraota Digital portal - was threatened by groups operating in Caricuao parish, in Caracas, after documenting a protest at a service station.

On May 10, the SNTP joined journalist Carlín Rodríguez in demanding justice, seven years after she was shot in the face while participating in a march in Lechería, Anzoategui state, when she was a student of social communication. She is accusing four officials; more than 10 hearings have been postponed because the officials do not appear in court.

On May 24, GNB officers threatened Made Palmar - from @EVTVMiami - and Edwin Prieto - from the Noticias Todos Ahora portal - with having their equipment seized while they were covering a protest by the student movement regarding Covid-19 vaccines for residents of the La Limpia sector, in Zulia state.

On May 28, journalist Martí Hurtado was missing for more than 12 hours after an unidentified police force raided his house on Bolivia Street in Punto Fijo, Falcón state.

Conatel officials closed and seized the equipment of the radio station Zeta 103.5 FM, in Ocumare del Tuy, Miranda state - they said it was an administrative procedure.

On May 31, in Lara state, journalists Naikarys Cordero and Eliagnis Mora and photographer Dani Sosa - from El Informador - were harassed by alleged FAES officers in plain clothes, while they were covering the San Luis del Este II service station in Barquisimeto. They were forced to erase the audiovisual material and were threatened with arrest.

On July 9, journalist Joan Camargo - from the Noticias Todos Ahora portal - was detained in the vicinity of Quinta Crespo. He was covering a confrontation in western Caracas.

On July 13, during a press conference broadcast by Venezolana de Televisión, Jorge Rodríguez - president of the ruling party's National Assembly - accused and criminalized the Efecto Cocuyo portal and AlbertoRodNews. He said they were part of a media operation against Maduro.

On August 4, the radio program Punto de Corte, broadcast by Radio Fe y Alegría, was taken off the air by orders of the Conatel regulatory agency. The program was hosted by journalist Johan Alvarez.

On August 8, in Bolívar state, journalists Jhoalys Siverio - from El Correo del Caroni and the Crónica Uno portal - and Carlos Suniaga - from the El Pitazo TV portal - were threatened and forced to delete videos from their telephones while covering the PSUV internal elections.

On August 10, at least 10 media crews and agencies were prevented from covering the arrival of the sports delegation that took part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics - because they were not accredited by the Ministry of Communication or the Ministry of Sports.

On August 19, the radio antenna connecting to the system of the 620 AM Radio Fe y Alegría Noticias radio station in Guasdualito, Apure state, was stolen. This brings to nine such thefts from Radio Fe y Alegria Noticias stations - in Maturin, El Tigre and Ciudad Guayana.

On September 6, it was reported that journalist Roland Carreño - unjustly jailed since October 2020 - is in delicate health. In addition to the hypertensive crisis, he was infected with Covid-19 in prison.

On September 10, Braulio Jatar was found not guilty by the Second Court of Nueva Esparta state; it took 26 hearing to declare his innocence and his freedom. Jatar was declared a prisoner of conscience by the IACHR Court. He was arrested on September 3, 2016, after publishing on his digital page a protest against Maduro, in Margarita Island - and accused of money laundering. He was jailed in four prisons. In 2017, he was granted house arrest.

On October 3, subjects wearing National Bolivarian Police uniforms and riding motorcycles assaulted and shot photojournalist Ronald Enrique Peña - from the El Pitazo TV portal, in Caracas. He was not injured, but his motorcycle, documents and telephone were stolen.

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