The Venezuelan Press Bloc presented a report denouncing continued attacks against reporters and threats against the private news media, as well as a number of events and situations jeopardizing freedom of expression in Venezuela
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The Inter-American Press Association's regional vice-president for Venezuela, David Natera, Saturday at the half-yearly meeting of IAPA in Caracas presented his report on freedom of press and information in Venezuela, and denounced continued attacks against reporters and threats against the private news media.
Natera summarized a number of events and situations he described as jeopardizing freedom of expression in Venezuela.
The director of El Correo del Caroní newspaper stated that "independent" reporters were the target of attacks while covering government acts, and were even prevented from accessing news sources.
Among the aggressions, Natera highlighted "the shutdown" -almost one year ago- of privately owned television station RCTV. He added that the TV network's broadcast equipment were "taken over."
The head of the Venezuelan Press Bloc also reported the threats and legal actions filed against local news television channel Globovisión. He explained that Globovisión continued to face lawsuits and administrative investigations, as well as offenses and threats launched by the Venezuelan Head of State. According to Natera, the government has denied authorization for Globovisión to air on open signal, "which is an attempt at curtailing its messages and free opinion."
"Communication experts found last February that the takeover of the state-run media by the government and the efforts to diminish the plurality of ideas are some of the moves the government of Hugo Chávez has made during the first nine years in office."
Natera reminded the "lawsuits, charges, and persecutions" against some Venezuelan reporters, including Patricia Poleo, and Gustavo Azocar, among others.
In Natera's view, the radio and television social responsibility law allows the government to control the contents of the radio-electric mass media. He added that the changes introduced to the Crime Code have paved the way to "criminalize dissent." He explained that the Venezuelan Crime Code punishes "the offenses against officials," which entails "a serious risk" for freedom of expression.
Natera voiced concern about the delays in government authorization for newspapers to purchase dollars to buy paper. This has become a serious problem that endangers the circulation of newspapers in Venezuela.
Another example of discrimination Natera reported was the publication of government advertisements. "The regime is using the disastrous and immoral mechanism of government advertisements as a means of pressure and punishment. The committed mass media are extravagantly funded in order to strengthen the communication network supporting the process."
Marcos Hernández, leader of pro-government non-governmental organization Periodistas por la Verdad (Journalists for the Truth), rejected Natera's report as "biased, manipulated and banal." According to Hernández, the report "is inconsistent with the true situation of freedom of expression in Venezuela. This is another example of how far you are willing to go in order to advocate your interests. You are ready to take out a mortgage on the truth."
Hernández denied Natera's claims, and stressed that no reporter in Venezuela has been put in jail or persecuted for exercising journalism. The NGO leader said no mass media has been closed down in Venezuela over the last few years. On the contrary, he claimed, 60 new TV channels and some 100 radio stations have started operations in the country.
Translated by Maryflor Suárez R.
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