Report to the Midyear Meeting
April, 19-22 2022
During this period there were constant raids, threats and persecution of journalists investigating corruption cases by high-level government officials.

In addition, there were incidents of physical violence, threats and attacks against journalists covering regional elections - by police and military authorities and paramilitary groups armed and organized by the government.

The seizure of the El Nacional facilities took place due to a shameless judicial system that has no autonomy from the Executive Branch. Judges follow direct instructions from Diosdado Cabello - overriding any legal procedure. The defamation lawsuit never got to judgment - it was stopped in the conciliation hearing - however, the precautionary measures remain in place after five years. The civil trial that led to a ruling of a US$ 13 million indemnity payment was carried out without a criminal sentence or justification of the incredible final amount. The action of the Army seizing the facilities and evicting all workers was carried out without any legal or lawful procedure. The appraisal at US$ 10 million to hand over the facilities to Cabello as private property was irregular.

On February 7, Cabello was granted the facilities of the newspaper El Nacional. El Nacional stated that it was an "irregular and illegal judicial auction" which was carried out without being published in "the auction notices with the day, time and minimum amount for the interested parties to make their bids" and without the presence of witnesses. Nor did the procedure comply with the usual procedural rules. The judge in the case was Lisbeth del Carmen Amoroso, sister of the Comptroller General, Elvis Amoroso. This is how the judicial seizure or snatching of the newspaper was carried out.

The defamation lawsuit for the article published in El Nacional - originally published by Spain's ABC - never moved forward; nor was it considered that the DEA established a reward of US$ 10 million for anyone who would collaborate with the capture of Cabello.

The original indemnity against El Nacional - which had been settled in favor of Cabello and which he accepted (thus becoming final and res judicata) in 2018 - was set in the amount of 10 thousand Sovereign Bolivars (Bs. S. 10,000.00; today 0.1 digital bolivars). This figure was modified inappropriately as a consequence of an unfounded appeal by the Civil Cassation Chamber of the TSJ, which transformed the amount of the final sentence into the incredible figure of two hundred and thirty-seven thousand Petros (237,000 Petros.) - which, at the exchange rate of the time, was equivalent to US$ 13 million.

This occurred just when Cabello was appointed president of the Special Commission for the Implementation of the Judicial Revolution throughout the Venezuelan Justice System.

Another important aggression against the media was the blocking of Internet portals, among them: El Nacional, La Patilla, Efecto Cocuyo - which also affected portals administered from other countries. These blockades are carried out without judicial authorization - in a discretionary and absolutely arbitrary manner. It is done by ordering the telephone companies to do the blocking. This includes transnational companies such as Telefónica - which ignore their own principles of non-violation of human rights.

Other aggressions against journalists and media in this period:

On November 19, photojournalist Wuilmer Barrero - of the newspaper Nueva Prensa de Guayana, in Bolivar state - was ambushed and robbed by a group of people identified as pro-Chavez during the PSUV's campaign closing. The criminals aimed their guns at the journalist's back and private parts, and threatened to kill him - while the rest of the group danced around him to hide what was happening. They took two cell phones, a wallet, a camera, his ID card and documents.

On November 21, journalists in Mérida state reported that voting center coordinators denied access to the press - despite being duly accredited by the National Electoral Council (CNE) for the coverage of the regional elections.

Lorena Bornacelly - journalist of El Pitazo TV in Táchira state - reported that electoral witnesses from the ruling PSUV party took photos of reporters covering the voting of San Cristóbal mayor Gustavo Delgado.

Pilar Guerra - journalist of the digital media Mango Noticias in Cojedes state - reported that near the polling place Liceo Creación San Carlos, a military officer demanded her to erase two videos with images of Puntos Rojos (political control/coercion stands near polling places.)

Journalists from at least seven media outlets in Monagas state, reported that CNE and Plan República officials prevented them from entering the polling places to give coverage to opposition candidates.

On November 26, CNE officials in Tovar, Mérida state, prevented journalist Javier Cuberos - of Mocotíes 104.9 FM - from covering the proclamation of the elected mayor in the municipality. They accused the mayor of inciting hatred on his radio program.

On November 27, Conatel ordered the closure of radio station Monumental 94.1 FM, in Santa Barbara de Barinas. The radio station belongs to opposition candidate Nelson García Mora, elected mayor of this municipality.

On December 7, Conatel ordered the suspension of the program "La Mejor Barinas", broadcasted by "Emoción 98.1 FM" and hosted by Freddy Superlano - former candidate for governor. Superlano assured that they threatened to close the station if the program remained on the air.

On December 28, Conatel closed the radio station Kalor 101.9 FM, in Acarigua, Portuguesa state. They also closed Astro 97.7 FM, in the Ospino municipality of the same state. Both stations are owned by journalist Carlos Barrios, elected mayor of Ospino. Conatel claimed that the concession of both radio stations - which have been operating for 12 and 20 years respectively - had expired.

On January 9, during the regional elections in Barinas, journalist Fabiola Barrera reported that Plan República prevented her from doing her reporting work during a visit to a polling place in Barinas state. An official of Plan República also used intimidation by photographing the credentials of Yelitza Figueroa - correspondent of Crónica Uno.

On January 10, José Urbina - director of the community radio station Frontera 92.5 FM of Puerto Paez, Apure state - was murdered in the Pedro Camejo municipality. Urbina was a Communist Party militant and had publicly reported that he had been threatened for exposing the actions of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) on the armed conflicts in the border area with Colombia.

On January 26, GNB officers prevented the work of journalists Pilar Guerra - of VPI TV; Gregorio Villalonga - of Unión Radio; and Alexander Olvera - of Moda 105.1FM, at a signature collection point for a recall vote in San Carlos, Cojedes state.

On February 2, private telecommunications operators joined the selective blockade of the media. According to information provided by VE sin Filtro, since February 1, the following news portals have been affected: Efecto Cocuyo, Crónica Uno and EVTV Miami channel. The blockages are DNS type and were implemented by CANTV, Movistar, Digitel, Supercable and Inter.

The restrictions against Efecto Cocuyo were active in CANTV, while those against EVTV were added to a previous domain. This is the first blocking of Crónica Uno. Luz Mely Reyes - director of Efecto Cocuyo - published in her Twitter account a call to operators Inter, Supercable, Movistar and Digitel to explain the reasons for blocking digital media. In DNS restrictions the servers do not respond when asked about the blocked web page.

On February 4, photojournalist Nehomar Guerra - of the newspaper El Tigrense, in Anzoátegui state - was forced to delete the images he had taken during the raids carried out by detectives at the commercial location of businessman Loimar Molletón.

On February 9, the web page of the newspaper Tal Cual was attacked through multiple requests from addresses controlled by CANTV - with the intent to take it off the air.

On February 11, the Internet watchdog VE sin Filtro reported blockages to the two main domains of the El Nacional portal - following new threats made by Cabello in his program "Con el mazo dando."

VE sin Filtro was able to identify DNS access restrictions through the state-owned CANTV, and the private companies Movistar, Digitel, Inter and Supercable to the domains and since approximately 4:30 p.m. local time.

IPYS Venezuela verified such limitations through the OONI Probe methodology in Digitel and Movistar. While a DNS block to the URL was detected, the restriction to indicated an HTTP block at Digitel.

On February 22, journalist Erika Verdi - of the portal Táchira News - reported to the Public Prosecutor's Office of San Cristóbal, in Táchira state, a false accusation against her received from anonymous accounts on social networks. Verdi was accused of alleged links to Colombian irregular groups.

On March 8, the press office of the Táchira government ordered the different directors of that agency not to make statements to the media without prior authorization from that office.

On March 12, Euro Lobo - a journalist from Mérida - reported a campaign to discredit him and claims to have received threats from government officials who accuse him of having a social media account with which he denies having any links.