Venezuela | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Venezuela

Venezuela

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 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)

17

In the unstable political environment that has followed the failed coup against President Chavez's government in April of 2002, public and private media have turned against each other in a low-level civil war. Public media outlets support Chavez's policies uncritically and feed government-sponsored propaganda in coordinated television and radio broadcasts throughout the country. Meanwhile, private outlets have sacrificed their independence to support anti-Chavez factions. Consequently, the protections for independent media established by Venezuela's constitution are not enforced in practice; in fact, they are openly ignored by a judicial system firmly under Chavez's control. Journalists who criticize Chavez's actions are regularly prosecuted for defamation, slander, and contempt, all of which are classified as criminal offenses. In addition, journalists who provide the public with access to the opposition's views are routinely threatened with violence, attacked while attempting to cover the news, or otherwise harassed by authorities or government sympathizers. In October 2003, the government's telecommunications regulatory agency, CONATEL, confiscated live-broadcast equipment from a leading private Venezuelan news station, Globovision. President Chavez declared after the crackdown, "The permissive Chavez is over. We are and will continue to be vigilant as regards any excesses, especially by the news media, and we will apply the law whenever necessary." In cracking down against Globovision and other media outlets, the government abuses provisions in the country's Communications Law. Passed in 2000 after Chavez took power, the law stipulates that the government can move against media groups engaging in clandestine activities. Though no evidence exists that Globovision has been operating outside the law, the Venezuelan judiciary does not currently possess enough independent authority to review and override the government's crackdowns legitimately. A law of social responsibility in radio and television, which would nationalize all media and place them under strict ideological control, continues to be debated actively in Venezuela's national assembly. The current economic chaos in Venezuela, spurred in part by Chavez's nationalization of major industries, makes private media dependent on the remaining major conglomerates for advertising revenue and economic survival. It also makes the major advertisers dependent on private media for their political survival, creating a corrupt reporting environment.