Miami (February 3, 2022) - Violations of freedom of expression in Venezuela have intensified, emphasized the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), condemning the blocking of digital media and the illegal use of personal data to harass journalists.
Since the early morning of February 1, access to three digital media was blocked: Efecto Cocuyo, Crónica Uno, and EVTV Miami, based in Florida, United States. The action, carried out by the telecommunications companies CANTV (state-owned) and Movistar, Digitel, Supercable, and Inter (private), operators of mobile and Internet services, was allegedly ordered by the government's National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel).
"The dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro demonstrates once again its fixation on muzzling independent journalism. Therefore, the international community cannot remain silent in the face of a regime of terror that tramples on the right to freedom of expression of its citizens," said Jorge Canahuati, president of IAPA and CEO of Grupo Opsa of Honduras.
According to the monitoring organization VE Sin Filtro, the regime not only blocks media websites not affiliated to the government, but in recent years it has also blocked multimedia, streaming, and social media platforms.
These allegations also confirm the conclusions of a recent report by Espacio Público, Privacy, and personal data in Venezuela, an approach to current legislation and practice, (here document in Spanish), released on January 28, international Data Protection Day.
Carlos Jornet, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the Argentine newspaper La Voz del Interior, said: "This new information compels us to express our support and solidarity to journalists and independent media who have been suffering persecution and government reprisals for more than 20 years."
Canahuati and Jornet recalled the 2018 Declaration of Salta on Principles of Freedom of Expression in the Digital Era. For example, article 7 states that "Authorities must not use digital surveillance mechanisms to violate the liberties and privacy of citizens." Furthermore, article 5 recalls that "Content blocking and filtering through government controls in the digital space constitutes prior restrain according to the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights."
Among other arbitrary practices exercised by the government, Espacio Público cites the surveillance and theft of information through the cloning of websites and social media pages, phishing, and retention of personal data via cellular or fixed telephony, using technological equipment and Israeli software for the extraction of information.
The report highlights that illegal access to equipment, mainly cell phones, "is a growing practice" against journalists by the police and military.
The latest IAPA resolution on Venezuela emphasizes: "The relentless persecution against the media and journalists, as well as the blocking of the few media outlets that still publish on the Internet, has almost achieved the regime's plan of communicational hegemony, similar to the Cuban model." Regarding the embargo of the facilities of the newspaper El Nacional on May 14, 2021, that still prevails, the organization expressed that "it will remain in the history of this century as one of the greatest outrages against press freedom."
In addition to Cuba and Nicaragua, Venezuela is the worst evaluated country in terms of individual and social freedoms according to the Chapultepec Index 2021, a barometer used by IAPA to measure levels of freedom of press and expression in 22 nations of the hemisphere.
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.