Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today warned that the continuing "war on media"
by President Hugo Chavez and his government was a potential disaster for
democracy in the country.
Speaking in Caracas at the end of a
two-day visit, IFJ General Secretary Aidan White
called on the government to change course and to end its campaign against
White said that
there was abundant evidence of a policy to isolate and punish independent
voices in media.
dangerous days for journalism in Venezuela,"
he said. "The government must change course, if not it will be a disaster for democracy
He said numerous physical attacks on reporters, closures of media, targeted
court actions and denial of media access to official information had created a
dangerous climate for journalists who will be under further pressures in the
run-up to national elections next year.
White highlighted the targeting of Globovision,
a televisión network facing the same fate as the independent network Radio
Television Caracas which was forced to close its terrestrial operations two
years ago. Earlier this year more than 30 radio stations were closed and a
further 200 stations are under threat of closure.
The IFJ also called
for the release of journalist Gustavo Azòcar, who is in jail in a case which White
said was a clear breach of free expression rights. Azòcar has been charged over
a technical breach of administration rules.
judges of "disproportionate and punitive" action against the journalist who was
jailed for entries on his blog. He said there was a danger that bias in court
judgements mean "justice in Venezuela
is in danger of being delivered according to political interests alone."
The IFJ says that
the Chavez campaign of vocal criticism of media and administrative pressure dates
from before the attempted coup in 2002 when some media owners appeared to support
a bungled attempt to overthrow the government.
At the time the IFJ carried out a mission to
investigate the circumstances. In the report that followed the IFJ criticised
the unprofessionalism of some media, but also criticised Chavez for his violent
and confrontational rhetoric and threats to independent media.
"The media have moved on, but the government has
maintained its confrontational policies," said White. "The time has come for
dialogue and fresh efforts to support pluralism in media."
The IFJ will discuss the Venezuela crisis in a regional
meeting of its affiliates to be held in Brasilia
this weekend. "We shall remain vigilant and we shall do all we can to support
our colleagues in Venezuela in the
difficult months ahead," said White.
For more information contact the IFJ at
+32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists
in 125 countries worldwide