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Over 70 percent of abuses carried out on journalists are committed by Venezuelan government officials

Over 70 percent of abuses carried out on journalists are committed by Venezuelan government officials, says the General Secretary of the National Union of Press Workers

by Natalie Glanvill on 16 October 2012 08:38

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Over 70 percent of abuses carried out on journalists are committed by Venezuelan government officials, says the General Secretary of the National Union of Press Workers.

The preliminary report by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) or Sociedad Interamericana de Presna (SIP) was presented at the 68th General Assembly of IAPA in Sao Paolo on Monday.

The Press and Society Institute (PSI) noted that over 70 percent of aggressions are physical assaults on reporters and their technical equipment.

Marcos Ruiz, General Secretary of the National Union of Press Workers in Venezuela told a hearing before the commission that “28 percent of violations are physical attacks followed up with intimidation and censorship, 71 percent of all abuses are committed by Venezuelan government officials and many of which occur during coverage of events considered unfavourable to the government”.

In the wake of increased political polarisation during the presidential election last Sunday, attacks against the media and journalists intensified.

The Venezuelan report presented by Gilberto Urdaneta, editor of the Journal of Zulia Regional accuses the government of restricting access to official press conferences to “the state media and a few others”.

Hugo Chavez was re-elected as Venezuelan President last Sunday for the fourth consecutive time and has ruled the country since February 1999. According to Urdaneta, restrictions on press freedoms are embodied in the “systematic harassment under the continued exercise of freedom of expression”, the “unequal distribution of advertising” and difficulties in accessing public information.

In incidents which can be linked to the run-up of the Presidential election, it was reported that the “National Electoral Council would keep an eye on the media. No press entity, public or private, radio, television or print, would be able to refuse to disseminate electoral propaganda and would be required to maintain a balance in regard to advertising time and space”.

Hugo Chavez was given a considerable advantage over his opposition candidate in terms of televised appearances. Chavez had made “twenty-seven broadcast addresses in his campaign, totalling more than forty three hours which signified that he had used that mechanism four times more than in his 2006 campaign” reported Carlos Vecchio, spokesman for Voluntad Popular.

There are weekly reports of mistreatment, attacks, detention, indignities, insults, seizures of equipment and violations of basic rights, says the report. According to Carlos Correa, head of Espacio Publico, a non-governmental organisation that investigates such cases, the NGO receives “on average of 4.3 reported denunciations of violations of freedom of expression every week”.

In June 2012, Reporters Without Borders said journalists continue to be targets of physical violence and said despite recent attacks being investigated, the organisation was "still very worried by the intensity in the run-up the October presidential elections".

Throughout the year, reporting teams in several different cities across the country were caught in the “crossfire of a shootout”, “verbally and physically abused”, “detained”, “was shot at from the roof of a National Prison in the Zulia state” and “threatened with having their buildings set on fire”.

In the six month analysis of the report, six journalists were killed and three were missing in the [Latin] Americas. According to the National Human Rights Commission, 86 journalists have been killed and 16 have disappeared in Mexico since 2000 and not surprisingly, 70 percent of attacks on journalists go unpublished.

Cuba’s censorship remains unchanged and the country’s repression of freedom of expression and the use of media as a propaganda vehicle are a “constant reality”. In Argentina, the media continue to operate in a “hostile environment” and a “dark stage” generated measures and “arbitrary manoeuvres” of government.

Natalie Glanvill is an Editorial Assistant at The Commentator and tweets at @NatalieGlanvil1

Read more on: IAPA, media in Americas', Argentina, National Human Rights Commission, Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, Gilberto Urdaneta, physical abuse on reporters, political campaign, Press and Society Instittute, National Union of Press Workers, journalist, freedom of expression, SIP, Presidential elections in Venezuela, venezuela, Inter American Press Association, mexico, freedom of speech, hugo chavez, the commentator , and Natalie Glanvill
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