Study: Government supporters responsible for one in four attacks on the press in Venezuela

Unlike Mexico, where dozens of journalists have been killed in the last decade, Venezuelan journalists don’t work under a climate of constant threats to their lives, however they do face “systematic” pressure from the government, whose supporters are responsible for 28% of the attacks against the press, the Press and Society Institute (IPYS) reports.

“Unlike neighboring countries like Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, where powers at the margins of the government and society attack the health and life of journalists, in Venezuela these acts are committed by the State,” said IPYS executive director Ewald Scharfenberg, at the presentation of the report.

According to the report, titled Media asphyxia: Freedom of the press in Venezuela, 2008-2010,” between May of 2008 and May of 2010, there were 236 attacks on journalists. The 147 that took place between May 2009 and May 2010 is the highest yearly number of attacks on record in the country since the organization began tracking them in 2002, EFE explains.

Scharfenberg stressed that in Venezuela there is “widespread impunity” for the perpetrators of attacks against the press, “which can encourage offenders.” He believes the “most effective and practical” means to protect media outlets and their employees is to publicly denounce such attacks.

However, according to the report, the majority of pressure on the press comes from mechanisms of indirect censorship, such as “the use of government advertising to reward and punish, filing lawsuits against journalists that don't go anywhere, and buying media companies with government money,” said Scharfenberg, quoted by El Universal.

According to El Nacional, the document also notes that violence tends to coincide with electoral campaigns, meaning that 2012 could prove a perilous year for Venezuelan journalists due to the scheduled presidential elections.

Other Related Headlines:
» Knight Center (Venezuelan journalism unions criticize government for information restrictions and impunity)
» Knight Center (Alleged Chávez supporters attack Venezuelan journalists)

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.