President Hugo Chávez Frías’ administration continued its systematic campaign to stifle critical reporting through regulatory, judicial, and legislative avenues. The telecommunications regulator fined Globovisión, the country's sole critical television station, more than US$2 million for its coverage of deadly prison riots in June and July. The regulator invoked the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, one of the region’s most restrictive measures. Prosecutors brought criminal charges against two executives of a critical weekly concerning a satirical article and photo montage that depicted high-ranking female officials as playing roles in a “cabaret” directed by Chávez. The weekly was briefly shut, and one executive was imprisoned for nearly three months. The Chávez administration used its extensive state media operation to spread political propaganda and wage smear campaigns against its critics. Chávez’s announcement that Cuban doctors had found and removed a cancerous tumor fueled speculation about the country’s political future as the October 2012 presidential election approached. Official information about the president’s health was scarce and treated as if it were a state secret.
Conatel, Venezuela's telecommunications regulator, fined Globovisión for its coverage of a tense 27-day standoff between government troops and prisoners at the country's El Rodeo II Prison in the city of Guatire. Regulators alleged the station violated the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television.
Leocenis García, owner of the weekly 6to Poder, was detained in August after his paper ran a satirical article that compared senior female officials in the Chávez administration to cabaret dancers. He was charged with incitement to hatred, insulting officials, and denigrating women. García was freed in November, but charges were pending.
The body of Wilfred Iván Ojeda, a political columnist and opposition activist, was found in a vacant lot, gagged, hooded, and bound, with a gunshot to the head, according to local investigators. CPJ was investigating to determine whether the killing was related to his journalism.
Breakdown of fatalities in Venezuela since 1992:
The administration rejected all 13 recommendations concerning freedom of expression that were made during the country's Universal Periodic Review before the U.N. Human Rights Council in October.
The recommendations, part of a larger human rights package, had called for the adoption of access-to-information legislation and the repeal of laws that criminalize insulting a public official.
Breakdown of Universal Periodic Review recommendations:
148: Total number of recommendations
95: Recommendations accepted (others were being considered)
0: Recommendations accepted concerning freedom of expression
38: Recommendations rejected, including all 13 freedom of expression items
Six critical journalists and columnists, including 2010 CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Laureano Márquez, saw their Twitter accounts hacked in September. The hackers, going under the name N33, effectively took over the accounts. The group said it was independent of the government but was defending Chávez's honor, according to the International Press Institute. Eight opposition politicians and activists were also targeted.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.