Freedom of the Press

Venezuela

Venezuela

Freedom of the Press 2003

2003 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

68

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

29

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

16

Status change explanation: Venezuela's rating deteriorated from Partly Free to Not Free, as the ability of independent journalists and media outlets to operate freely and impartially was seriously impeded by a political and economic crisis that enveloped the entire country.

Press freedom has seriously deteriorated over the past year as a result of a climate of intimidation and hostility towards independent journalists and media outlets. Although the constitution provides for press freedom, a special clause which states that all persons have the right to "true" information has been used by the government of President Hugo Chavez to censor and intimidate the press. Libel and defamation are criminal offenses, and these laws were increasingly used to harass the media throughout the year. A 1994 law requires that media professionals hold a university degree in journalism and also be members of the National College of Journalists. The government has exerted undue pressure on the media, repeatedly singling out media owners, editors, and reporters by name and calling them "liars, enemies of the revolution and of the people." During the year, dozens of journalists were the victims of threats, intimidation, and violent assaults, most likely as a result of the president's relentless criticism of the media. One journalist was killed after he was shot by a military sniper while covering political demonstrations that led to the temporary ousting of Chavez in February. On the other hand, the media in Venezuela have shown a significant anti-Chavez slant that is characterized by lowered levels of impartiality and fairness. Media owners allege that this situation exists because Chavez incites his supporters to attack journalists. In addition, the state allocates broadcasting licenses in a biased manner and shows favoritism with government advertising revenues.