Freedom of the Press
Freedom of the Press Scores
Key Developments in 2016:
- Journalists faced violence, obstruction, and detention by security forces while covering demonstrations held across the country on several occasions. Some media workers were also subject to violence by civilians during these events.
- A number of journalists faced politically motivated prosecutions and spurious charges; among them were David Natera Febres, who was convicted of criminal defamation in March, and Braulio Jatar Alonso, who was arrested in September and charged with money laundering.
- Venezuela’s economic crisis continued to affect the media industry, leaving dozens of publications in chronic danger of closure due to shortages of newsprint and the difficulty of meeting basic operational costs. Many outlets also faced robberies, vandalism, and hackings.
Following a sharp decline in press freedom under the government of Hugo Chávez, conditions for media have grown worse under the administration of President Nicolás Maduro, who has increased government interference in private media and continued developing a communications apparatus that is meant to act as a state mouthpiece. Media organizations and workers face intimidation, threats, and violence by both state and nonstate actors, and are also deeply constrained by Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis.
The opposition’s victory in the 2015 legislative elections and the growing economic crisis heightened the Maduro administration’s sensitivity to criticism in 2016. Officials continued to use state outlets to threaten and intimidate private media, and harassed them with politically motivated prosecutions. Local and international watchdogs suggested that the money laundering charges against Jatar were likely filed in retaliation for his website’s coverage of protesters chasing Maduro on Margarita Island. The criminal defamation conviction of Natera Febres, editor of Correo del Caroní, was tied to articles that the newspaper published in 2013 about corruption at a state-owned mining company.
Espacio Público, a domestic watchdog, identified 366 violations of freedom of expression during 2016, a 28 percent increase from 2015. Most were acts of violence, aggression, or intimidation against reporters, and 44 percent of all violations occurred during public gatherings. Security services frequently interfered with domestic and foreign journalists covering mass demonstrations, held on several occasions during the year to express demands for a solution to the economic crisis and a recall of Maduro. Some reporters covering demonstrations were detained and interrogated, and many had their photographs, recordings, and equipment confiscated. Journalists covering other aspects of the crisis, including hospital conditions and food queues, faced similar treatment. Media workers were also subject to violence by civilians during protests, and some reported receiving no protection from security forces who were present.
The dire economic landscape continued to undermine media sustainability and exacerbated security challenges. The scarcity of resources forced some newspapers to close and others to downsize or reduce circulation. Many outlets were victims of robberies and vandalism, but the climate of insecurity made it difficult in some cases to differentiate between targeted attacks and common crime. Digital media outlets also reported hackings.
The full report for this country or territory will be published as soon as it becomes available.