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Venezuelan Government Silencing Media During Protests, Undermining Free Expression
Freedom House condemns restrictions to freedom of expression that the Venezuelan government has imposed as a reaction to street protests, and calls on the government to allow all press to operate freely. Since students began public protests February 12, authorities have tightened press restrictions, including censorship of media, as well as detentions and violence against journalists.
“At a time of political unrest, it is more important than ever for citizens to have free access to information,” said Viviana Giacaman, director for Latin America programs at Freedom House. “Democratic governments do not prevent media from covering demonstrations or the political opposition.”
President Nicolas Maduro ordered the Colombian news station NTN24 off the air the first day of the protest, citing “state reasons.” NTN24 was the only television channel broadcasting images of the student protests. On February 20, Maduro warned CNN that its broadcasts would be blocked if it did not “rectify” its coverage. Authorities revoked the work permit of CNN’s correspondents.
Protesters have relied on social media to share information about violence and repression. On February 13, the government partially blocked Twitter.
In recent years, authorities have gradually tightened restrictions on television and radio through forced closures, fines, judicial cases and economic pressures. Since the latest round of protests began, the Venezuelan National Association of Journalists has reported more than 50 incidents of violence or threats against reporters. Meanwhile newspapers are suffering newsprint shortages, forcing papers to reduce their number of pages or to suspend publication. Media organizations can import newspaper only if purchased with dollars provided through currency exchange with the government, but independent media has been systematically denied currency.
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