79th IAPA General Assembly, November 9 - 12, 2023, Mexico City, Mexico


Just as in many past years, free journalism was censored during this period. The constant and systematic censorship regime leads to self-censorship among media outlets that maintain their traditional ownership.

Television and radio remain subject to the discretionary criteria of the regulatory body Conatel, which continues to revoke radio-electric concessions indiscriminately; at least two stations go off the air every month. Conatel also continued censoring and shutting down spaces of independent print media, which were forced to migrate to web platforms.

Journalists find themselves besieged by the regime, harassed, and threatened when they try to cover social protests or report irregularities and corruption.

This environment occurs in the context of a new negotiation between the government of Nicolás Maduro and the opposition. So far, negotiations have been the government's strategy to buy time. This time, there seems to be a more apparent balance, as the regime is pressured to maintain the payment of salaries and aid programs. This pressure has produced some positive events, such as the release of journalist Roland Carreño and the permission for the opposition to hold primary elections. Optimists hope that the regime will stop using censorship against independent journalism through Conatel.

An IPYS Venezuela report revealed that between May and August 2023, 117 violations of freedom of expression affected 68 press workers. Among these incidents were 39 aggressions and attacks, 25 internet restrictions, 22 episodes with stigmatizing discourse, 12 access to information restrictions, and ten instances of direct censorship. IPYS also highlights internet restrictions, which include identity theft, selective blocking, and denial-of-service attacks.

Carreño was released on October 18 following an agreement between the opposition and the government, which also favored four other individuals considered political prisoners. Carreño, the former coordinator of the political party Voluntad Popular led by Leopoldo López, was imprisoned on October 26, 2020, on terrorism charges.

Since his arrest, Carreño has been a victim of enforced disappearance, and on six occasions, humanitarian measures were requested due to health problems. His defense had been denouncing the manipulation of evidence and procedural delays. In November 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Carreño's detention to be arbitrary and warned that imprisonment is a systematic practice in the country.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented the closure of 16 radio stations nationwide between May 2022 and April 2023. Those in charge of these radio stations reported difficulties obtaining permits and carrying out administrative procedures due to the lack of regional offices. The organization also documented blocking 44 websites, including national and international media and civil society organizations. Without formal orders or notifications, State and private Internet providers carried out the blockings.

The OHCHR expressed concern over the lack of transparency and access to public information. It called upon the State to implement a regularization plan to allow radio broadcasters access to the radio-electric spectrum under conditions that ensure informative plurality and legal security.

Other significant events during this period:

On May 4, the 18th Prosecutor's Office of the Public Ministry sent a summons to journalist Gustavo Azócar to be "interviewed as an accused party" in a case initiated by a complaint on social networks. Azócar was unaware of the origin of the complaint.

On May 5, the digital media outlets Diario El Tigrense and Diario El Vistazo were subjected to intimidating attacks by social media users following the arrest of radio journalist Ernesto Paraqueima. Additionally, the closure of the radio station Mariana 100.7 FM by Conatel was recorded, and officials also confiscated the equipment. Paraqueima hosted a commentary program. Conatel also visited the digital media outlet Mundo Oriental, owned by Paraqueima.

On May 8, journalist Román Camacho, a volunteer delegate of the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP), was accused by protesters from the town of José Félix Ribas, who questioned his journalistic practice and accused him of lying in his coverage of violent events.

On May 9, the SNTP condemned the blocking of the digital portal Salario Digno Venezuela by the Venezuelan Union Network, which promotes the fight for fair wages and working conditions.

On the same day, a commission from Sebin and the 4th Prosecutor of the Public Ministry, Julio Aguilar, raided the headquarters of the digital newspaper Mundo Oriental in El Tigre at Anzoátegui. It was an administrative procedure related to the detention of the former mayor Paraqueima, who is connected with the media outlet. The officials took inventory of all equipment and seized several computers. It was reported that 13 workers—including journalists, graphic designers, and other professionals—were affected by the measure applied to the media outlet.

Subsequently, the Commission seized equipment from the broadcaster Mariana Radio 100.7FM.

On May 12, the program "Mesa de Análisis," hosted by Leonaldi Meza on Furia 89.9 FM in the State of Barinas, went off the air. The station's director informed him that he had received calls to shut down the program.

On May 16, journalist Laura Clisánchez of Correo del Caroni was a victim of identity theft. The impostor sent emails offering journalistic services in exchange for payment. The journalist reported the incident to the Victim's Assistance Unit.

On May 18, journalist Omar Padrón and photographer Osmel Rodríguez, from La Prensa de Monagas, and Ignacio Piñango, from Fe y Alegría, were verbally attacked and intimidated while covering a neighborhood conflict in the La Viña housing complex in Maturín.

On May 21, the program "Ciudad 286" was taken off the air on Circuito Éxitos 90.5 FM in Puerto Ordaz, Bolívar State. Journalist Brayan Silva reported that the station told him the program was discontinued due to a "recommendation" from Conatel.

On June 12, press workers in Ciudad Guayana, Bolívar, were intimidated by officials from the Bolivarian National Guard at the main gate of the Orinoco Steelworks (Sidor) while covering the protest of the company's workers on June 12.

On June 14, journalists Magaly Hassan, from Diario La Mañana, and Scarlet Pérez, from Súper Stereo 94.5FM, were intimidated by Army soldiers at the Brisas del Isiro service station in Coro as they toured several gas stations in Falcón.

At the end of July, Conatel ordered the shutdown of Extásis 97.7FM radio station in Táchira, which had been broadcasting for 29 years.

On August 15, a supporter of Chavismo obstructed the work of independent journalist Edgar Tovar from Apure by momentarily snatching his microphone and phone as he was about to cover an event of presidential pre-candidate Henrique Capriles in San Fernando.

On August 28, journalist Alexandra Torres of the radio program "Entérate," broadcasted by Ganadera 88.1FM in the municipality of Rosario de Perijá, Zulia, was assaulted by a group of women while covering the takeover of the regional police headquarters.

On September 1, Conatel ordered the broadcaster Continental 103.5 FM to close in San Cristóbal, Táchira. According to the written communication received by the radio's directors, the procedure is a "domain extinction."

On September 4, Nicolás Maduro lashed out at the Voice of America channel. "It depends directly on the White House and the Department of State. They put out news every week to portray Venezuela in a bad light," he said during his 15th show "Con Maduro +."

Maduro attempted to discredit a report published on Voice of America, titled "In Venezuela's crystalline beaches, the crisis is disguised: There's nothing like being here." The piece includes testimonies from workers at Morrocoy National Park in Falcón.

On September 10, journalist Luis Alejandro Acosta was detained while covering events in the Yapacana Mines at the port La 40 in Amazonas State. After being accused of several crimes, he was released on conditional liberty on September 21.

On September 12, the program "Al Día con Nosotros," hosted by cartoonist Fernando Pinilla and broadcast by Altos FM 107.1 in the Altos Mirandinos, went off the air. The cartoonist reported that the radio station's management notified him of the decision to cancel the program after they received a call from the Guaicaipuro Mayor's Office expressing their rejection of the broadcaster's presence on air.

On September 20, unidentified individuals distributed leaflets in front of the headquarters of the National College of Journalists, Táchira Section, with messages against journalist Luzfrandy Contreras from Televisión del Táchira, Diario de Los Andes, and Centro de Noticias Táchira.

On September 28, officers from the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) prevented journalists from various media outlets from covering an indigenous protest on the national highway El Tigre-Cantaura in Anzoátegui because it was an unsafe area.

On October 10, Conatel ordered the cessation of broadcasts from the radio stations Espléndida 93.7 FM, in El Tigre, Anzoátegui State, and Radio Fe y Alegría 105.9 FM, in Maturín, Monagas State.

The Commission confiscated equipment from Radio Fe y Alegría and argued the lack of permits to operate in both cases.

The government continues to ignore rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to return the media and rehabilitate the operating licenses of those companies whose equipment was confiscated and stolen.