Tense climate worsens for Venezuelan media even without Chávez in power, states RSF

By Isabela Fraga

"For the first time in many months, reporters of the AN [National Assembly] could enter without problems," said Venezuelan journalist Janet Yucra in her Twitter account on Tuesday, June 11. Yucra is referring to the prohibition of the press from entering and covering the Venezuelan legislative body, which began a new session in February of this year.

The situation, widely criticized by various organizations, is symptomatic of the tense state in which the country's media finds itself, even two months after elections put President Nicolás Maduro into power.

The tension has also been amplified by other troubling events. In May, an explosive device was thrown on the front steps of the building of the newspaper Panorama. In June, journalist Leocenis García, editor of the weekly Sexto Poder, began a hunger strike in protest against the closing of Atel TV, a private broadcast channel. Another private channel, Ciudad TV, closed in May. Also in May, Maduro accused CNN of orchestrating a coup in Venezuela. After the sale of Globovisión -- a channel known for its critical tone against the government--commentator Francisco Bautista was fired for airing a speech by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

These and other situations that are restricting freedom of the press and expression led to the organization Reporters Without Borders to announce on June 11 an alert on the polarization between privately-owned media and the Venezuelan government. "Today, more than ever, it appears  a dialogue between authorities and the media is neccessary for difusing these tensions," the statement said.

Polarization of the media and its conflicts with the government were traits of the administration of ex-president Hugo Chávez, who died on March 5.  And even during the elections that brought Maduro to power -- the second election in six months --, the country's media was divided.


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.