Federation of Journalists Statement on the Media Blackout in Venezuela

The Federation of Journalists in Spain has condemned the censorship of media in Venezuela. While the statement was issued last month, this is the first time the entire statement has been published in English.

The statement outlines some of the censorship that is taking place inside Venezuela including threats by the Venezuelan telecom company not to cover student protests lest they run afoul of a law on the media’s social responsibility. According to FAPE this has led to self-censorship by some worried about being declared enemies of the state. As events this week have demonstrated, that can and does happen in Venezuela:

MADRID , FEBRUARY 21, 2014. The Federation of Journalists in Spain (FAPE) urges the Venezuelan government to lift the information ” blackout” that was imposed after the protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro that began a week ago in different cities across the country.

The FAPE expresses solidarity with journalists and the media affected by censorship and demands that the Government adopt the appropriate measures to restore press freedom in a climate of democratic normalcy.

The FAPE reminds Maduro’s government that freedom of the press is a fundamental right in a democracy , such that any attempt at restricting it represents a serious setback that brings it closer to dictatorial models assumed to have been overcome.

The general secretary of the National Union of Press Workers of Venezuela (SNTP), Marco Ruiz, told FAPE that the political and social situation in Venezuela is “extremely serious ” due to strong measures of police repression and the criminal actions of uncontrolled groups towards protesters.

Journalists and media are the preferred targets of government attacks, according to the SNTP, which alleges that a total of 31 journalists were attacked in the past few hours. In addition, there have been 10 official arrests, attacks by paramilitary groups , theft of informational materials and threats.

A resolution by the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) warned the media they would be committing crimes against the state if they “disseminated media coverage of the deplorable acts of violence perpetrated in the country.”

This measure has forced many owners of media to self-censor the events happening on the streets of Venezuela, triggering an information blackout, says SNTP.

To this end, Marco Ruiz has contacted the owners and editors of the media urging them “to fulfill the responsibility to inform, as a communications medium is, more than a business, a social service entity.”

According to the secretary general of SNTP, citizens know what is happening in the country only through the use of social media.

On top of all this, the Maduro administration adopted measures against the private press, mostly written publications critical of the government, preventing imports of supplies like paper, ink, [press plates], etc … which has led to the forced shutdown of 12 media entities and a 60% reduction in number of pages of the remaining newspapers.

[Thanks to Frances Martel who verified and edited the translation of this statement.]