Double Attack Against Armando.Info

Investigative journalism site Armando.Info suffered a new attack, on two fronts this time: four members of their staff were forbidden to leave the country and its website was blocked in Venezuela.

Photo: IPYS

In our latest report in El Pitazo, we mentioned the case of Armando.Info, a specialized outlet in investigative journalism which was recently victim of several cyber-attacks. But in the last few days, it was confirmed that those were just a prelude to now being fully blocked through State phone carriers in Venezuelan territory.

The people of IPYS Venezuela, in collaboration with Venezuela Inteligente and the OONI (Open Observatory of Network Interference) have confirmed that Venezuelan ISPs like Cantv, Movistar and Digitel are indeed blocking Armando.Info after making a series of tests.

This would make this site the latest casualty in the growing and problematic trend of blocked Internet sites in the country. The three organizations released a full report on their findings titled “The State of Internet Censorship in Venezuela”. You can find the full English version here.

This would make this site the latest casualty in the growing and problematic trend of blocked Internet sites in the country.

But the blocking was only half of a pincer movement against the outlet: Remember the defamation lawsuit that Colombian businessman Alex Saab (deeply involved in the CLAP food program) introduced last year in a lower Caracas court (Tribunal 11 de Juicio)?

Well, Mr. Saab’s attorneys went there again last week and obtained a travel prohibition against four journalists: Ewald Scharfenberg, Joseph Poliszuk, Roberto Deniz and Alfredo Meza. But the four journalists were already out of the country at the time of the court’s ruling.

Saab’s lawyers also tried unsuccessfully to ban Armando.Info of publishing anything else about him. In case you know little about Alex Saab, Deniz wrote a useful thread about him and Poliszuk sent this message, insisting that these actions won’t stop Armando.Info’s work.

Why are we witnessing an increased clampdown of the internet by the State’s hegemony? To answer that question, here’s part of the conclusions offered in the previously quoted report:

“Censorship in Venezuela appears to be a symptom of its deep economic and political crisis, which is considered the most severe crisis in the country’s history. This is strongly suggested by the blocking of numerous currency exchange websites, as well as by the blocking of independent news outlets and blogs that discuss corruption and express political criticism…

Venezuela’s political and economic environment is fragile and as events unfold, its internet censorship apparatus may evolve. Continuing to monitor censorship events in Venezuela is therefore essential.”

I would like to add something to the last sentence: It’s not just about monitoring those events, but also about registering, archiving, studying and denouncing this unjustified practice.