IAPA General Assembly condemned Venezuelan government’s numerous mechanisms of restriction and persecution against the press

For harassing, persecuting, censoring and establishing legal frameworks against Venezuelan journalists and media, the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) condemned the practices of the Nicolás Maduro’s government against the freedoms of the press and of expression.

In the framework of the 73rd General Assembly of the organization –which took place from 2Oct. 27 to 30 in Salt Lake City, Utah– Miguel Henrique Otero, general editor of Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional and vice president of the Press Freedom Commission for Venezuela of the IAPA, presented a special report on the case of the crisis of freedom of expression in Venezuela.

At the closure of assembly, the IAPA approved the Freedom Commission’s resolution, condemning the Maduro government for curtailing freedoms, especially freedom of expression and communication, El Nacional reported.

“Currently the mere fact of covering a public anti-government demonstration can be regarded as a "terrorist" act under the power of the military tribunals. To send a Tweet, draw a caricature or make a joke can have severe penal consequences,” Otero said during the presentation of the report.

The report also noted how the administration has used restrictions from the “most subtle censorship mechanisms” to “the most blood forms of censorship.” It pointed to how state advertising is used as a "reward to the most compliant or servile news media," the increase in lawsuits for defamation against journalists, threats to press professionals, the closure of radio and television stations, the blocking of websites and digital platforms, arbitrary arrests and military trials of journalists.

“There is no media of social communication, including those provided by the new communication technologies that have escaped censorship. There is no opinion or information that is not subject to censorship. (...) Any form of expression, including the simple protect of a citizen in the street or the comment of a housewife in a shopping mall is subject to the most severe repression,” according to the special report, presented by Otero.

One of the examples cited in the report concerning the repression of the media is the disciplinary process against Venevisión and Televen by the National Commission of Telecommunications of Venezuela (Conatel for its acronym in Spanish), for not covering the elections for the National Constituent Assembly. Also, it mentioned the removal of the cable programming of signals from international channels such as CNN in Spanish, El Tiempo TV, Caracol TV and Todo Noticias, also ordered by Conatel, “because their editorial stance was not adjusted to the requirements of the ‘socialism of the 21st century,’” the report criticized.

During the presentation of the special report, a brief but very eloquent video, Ataque a la Prensa (Attack on the Broadcast), was broadcast. It showed images of journalists being violently assaulted by security forces during social demonstrations in recent months. It also showed testimonies of some of those affected denouncing the facts.

Another of the resolutions approved by the IAPA regarding Venezuela is the reference to persecution against journalists on behalf of the Venezuelan government, which restricts or prevents the renewal of passports or of personal identification documents. The IAPA General Assembly decided to condemn this practice of violating human rights and to denounce this situation before the competent international organizations, including the UN and the OAS.

They urged the Venezuelan government to cease immediately with this practice and request the solidarity of the other countries to protect within their applicable legal norms those who are subject to these illegal practices that violate their human rights.

As a general conclusion and from the reports presented during the General Assembly, the organization denounced the consolidation of a pattern of aggression against journalism on the American continent during 2017, which comes from both organized crime and the governments themselves.

In that sense, the IAPA has recorded attacks in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, the United States, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and the Dominican Republic. According to the organization, 18 journalists have murdered in the region so far this year, with the majority of cases remaining in "absolute impunity."

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.