Journalists covering Venezuela’s protests face harassment nationwide

4

To all the insanities in Venezuela today, add this one: if you’re following the Venezuelan news from Cochinchina on a decent net connection, you know what’s happening in Venezuela much better than if you’re watching TV in San Juan de los Morros.

First, major broadcast media have made a calculated decision to just not cover news of nationwide protests —even though we are, to the day, on the 15th anniversary of the news blackout chavismo used for years to justify attacking their media critics. On top of that, journalists who do take the risks and go go out to try to cover the news face a bad and deteriorating situation.

Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS, a press freedom NGO) has tallied 25 separate incidents involving the obstruction of press coverage through Monday:

19 physical aggressions, 11 intimidation attempts, 4 attacks against work tools, 3 arbitrary detentions, 3 robberies and one attack against a media outlet (in Coro).

At the same time, another local digital media outlet apparently suffered a suspected DDoS attack: Contrapunto.com said access to its main web page was affected, that would make it the sixth one this year. A previous set of similar cyber-attacks came about one month ago. There were also rumours of possible raids against other digital media outlets like VivoPlay, which later turned out to be false.

Then, the big protests on April 10th happened. The count went up to 32 incidents in just a matter of 24 hours.

During the harsh repression against protesters on Monday in Caracas, Freelance correspondent Roman Camacho was injured by a tear gas cannister launched by the National Guard. He may never have made it out of there without the help of, erm, las ordas fascistas. 

He suffered a fractured tibia, leaving him out of work for several weeks. He offered this reaction on video after being attended.  

Analitica’s Maria Fernanda Gonzalez was also hit in the face by a tear gas canister yesterday in Las Mercedes by members of the Bolivarian National Police. And in another case, Russia Today’s correspondent Erika Ortega had her cell-phone stolen. She blames the “guarimbas”.

In Barquisimeto, El Impulso’s reporter Brian Vidal was attacked by National Guard soldiers who tried to stop him covering the protests near the paper’s offices. Another local journalist, Arturo Lopez of fellow paper La Prensa de Lara was shot and then threatened by GNB officers.

At least 20 protesters were detained in Barquisimeto, including reporter Yonnathan Guedez, of the Iribarren Municipal press office. This was the last message posted on his personal Twitter account before his arrest.

The National Press Workers’ Union (SNTP) has called for his immediate release. At the time of this article’s publication, he was still held by the GNB. #LiberenAYonnathanGuedez

 

In nearby Carora, a team of reporters from local paper El Caroreño were attacked by government supporters (backed by two local PSUV leaders) while covering a student demonstration in town. Photographer Jonathan Suárez suffered minor injuries but got a picture of his alleged aggressor.

On the other side of the country, in Puerto La Cruz, a crew from newspaper El Norte were violently harassed while covering scuffles between government and opposition supporters that left one wounded. They tried to do the same to teams from local paper El Tiempo and digital site ElPitazo.com.

The brutal repression against our press is getting some serious concern beyond our borders.

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) recently issued this written statement:

The existence of isolated acts of violence during protests cannot justify a blank restriction of the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression or the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force against demonstrators. The Commission has emphasized that when a demonstration or protest leads to situations of violence it must be understood that the State was not able to guarantee its exercise. Their obligation is to refrain from arbitrarily restricting the exercise of the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, to protect participants and third parties present from attacks by individuals, and to ensure the management of social and political conflict and grievances and to channel the demonstrators´claims.

But expect such comments to fall on deaf ears: On one side, the Criminal Investigations Police (CICPC) has kept busy lately intimidating demonstrators online. On the other, Prisons Minister Iris Varela saw fit to justify the GNB’s attack on reporter Elyangelica Gonzalez, accusing her of “attacking the guards like a crazy person.”

And there’s the curious case of the People’s Ombudsman Tarek William Saab, who went on a Twitter rampage, which included blocking CC’s colleague Emi Duarte. No wonder than the United Nations downgraded him and his office in October of last year.

It’s 2017, so while we can’t stop them attacking journalists, you can make sure you hear about every last outrage. To stay up to date on press repression in Venezuela, consider following NGOs Espacio Publico and IPYS Venezuela, besides the National Press Workers’ Union (SNTP).

 

4 COMMENTS

Leave a Reply