By Valeria López de Vergara
Venezuelan journalists work in an environment often characterized by threats, economic precariousness, limited resources and few job opportunities.
This is according to a 2018 study from Medianálisis, a nonprofit organization dedicated to studying journalism and media in Venezuela. For the past four years, a team of professional journalists has analyzed the working conditions, censorship, transparency and other elements of the profession in the country.
"In general, the surveys done annually since 2015 allow us to confirm that the situation has gradually worsened in recent years," Andrés Cañizalez, director of Medianálisis, told the Knight Center. "There are no expectations for a better political, economic or social situation for the country or for journalists, and this increases the massive migration of Venezuelans.”
According to the study, 54 percent of journalists in Venezuela have been victims of aggression or threats because of the editorial line of the media outlet for which they work. "More than half of those interviewed attribute these aggressions to the government," the study found.
More than a third of these attacks and threats are not reported to the authorities because they consider that they will not obtain the proper attention and response. "Only in a small proportion were there legal prosecution and sanctions against the aggressors," it said.
The research is based on 50 questions that reveal personal experiences and opinions of 350 journalists who work in different media outlets.
With this investigation, the organization seeks to expose the need to improve the practice of journalism and the scenarios that are presented in this profession within Venezuelan society.
The report said that due to the economic situation in the country, journalists have looked elsewhere to supplement their main income. Many times the options are not related to their profession.
One of the graphs presented in the research indicates that a little more than half of Venezuelan journalists receive less than 2 months-pay at minimum wage for one month’s work, while only 1 in 4 surpasses 4-months pay at minimum wage for one month’s work.
To put this into context, in August 2018, President Nicolás Maduro raised the minimum wage from 5,200,000 bolivars per month (less than US $1 at the black market exchange rate) to just 180,000,000 bolivars per month (about US $28).
Another graph in the study shows that 43 percent of the journalists surveyed stated that they only work in the media outlet that they consider their main job, while 57 percent indicated that they perform two or more jobs to be able to pay for their needs.
"There are many precarious conditions, but the impoverishment experienced by the Venezuelan journalist is very serious, because we know from experience that poorly paid journalists or those in a precarious economic situation, it will be more difficult for them to exercise their profession independently," Cañizalez said.
According to the report, consultancies, advertising and teaching are some of the additional activities they use to supplement their income, while others work in jobs not related to journalism.
"These other occupations range from merchant to vendor of food or used clothing, to activities such as social network management, insurance broker, decoration, public relations and transportation," according to the research.
Apart from job opportunities, the research revealed that one in four journalists does not know if there are protocols to disprove false news, which leads to an inability to guarantee the quality and veracity of the content that reaches the public.