The war on journalists gets worse

Johana Álvarez, correspondent for Mexico’s Cadenatres TV was attacked yesterday at the UCV. She wasn’t the only one.

Yesterday, during the violent rampage by pro-government thugs inside the Universidad Central de Venezuela, several journalists were harrassed, and saw their equipment stolen.

Since last month, attacks against journalists have shown no sign of decreasing. According to the SNTP (National Press Workers’ Union), there have been at least 170 cases of aggression against press workers since February 12th. This also includes incidents involving the National Guard, which publicly pledged last week not to arrest any journalists covering the protests.

Other forms of pressure are spreading: the Venezuelan Criminal Investigations Police (CICPC) questioned journalists from newspaper La Voz in order to find their sources. And several journalists are getting threats from pro-government groups via pamphlets like Carabobo’s Vicelyz Fadul and Guayana’s Sergio Luis Torres.

Amnesty International is closely following the Venezuelan case, and published a special report this week, including a section on the multiple attacks on the press. Before that, representatives of several human rights groups, including the SNTP, the National Journalists’ Guild (CNP), and specialized NGO Espejo Publico made their case to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC).

The constant siege against free speech is also coming strong from private media outlets which have sided with the communicational hegemony (I like to call them HegemonCorp.). Tamoa Calzadilla already shared what is going on inside newspaper group Cadena Capriles, but what about Globovision, once the only alternative news option on Venezuelan TV?

Last week, Globovision’s correspondents in Zulia and Lara resigned in protest for the dismissal of their crewmembers. In the case of Zulia, it was hinted that the firing was related to the coverage of the events in the Palaima buildings, where pro-government colectivos attacked the premises, with the tacit support of the National Guard. The current Director General of Globovision, Mayela León, has denied any type of self-censorship.

This week, Globovision’s anchorman Reimy Chavez quit on the air for what he called “differences in criteria”. However, he couldn’t formally present his resignation letter because he was escorted out of the building by security officers. His co-worker Vanessa Ugueto was fired after showing support for Chávez – the anchorman, not the other one. Another GV journalist, Carlos Alberto Albino quit the channel as well, because in his words he doesn’t want to be an “accomplice to silence”.

According to the SNTP’s head Marco Ruiz Silvera, 57 people have left Globovision since it changed owners last year, with 18 of them fired by the channel. In an interview with CNN en Español after his on-air resignation, Reimy Chavez described how Globovision is handling its coverage of the protests:

We, as news anchors, don’t get direct orders, because we follow a script, but there are specific instructions, like not using the words “shortage” or “barricade” or “peaceful protest”. And that tells the story of censorship inside the channel. There are many witnesses to this among reporters and editors.”

But the hegemon isn’t concerned. They’re happy that Nicolas Maduro got an OpEd in the New York Times. It will have come as a shock to them that the Gray Lady gave a right of reply to Julio Borges. Hell will freeze over the day when SIBCI does the same to the opposition.