IFJ Warns of "Disintegration of Democracy" Over Chavez Threat to Media

Venezuela's fragile democracy will disintegrate altogether if President Hugo Chavez carries out a threat to silence independent media warned the International Federation of Journalists today.

"Intimidating and bullying media is no solution to the current crisis," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary following yesterday's threat from the government to revoke the licenses of some private broadcasters. "Such action will only deepen divisions, plunge the country into a new phase of ignorance and uncertainty and will extinguish the idea that democracy can survive under the rule of President Chavez."

The IFJ, which has a regional office in Caracas, says journalists have been in the frontline of the confrontation between Chavez and opposition during the past year. In July the Federation carried out a mission to the country following the attempted coup in April, which concluded that Chavez was guilty of promoting public hostility to media, and called for journalists to be able to work freely without being manipulated by either side.

There have been numerous cases of journalists being attacked on the streets and one journalist has been killed. The IFJ says that media people are being targeted and it is increasingly difficult for journalists to work professionally and safely. The latest statement from the government will heighten the risks facing reporters, says the Federation.

"The crisis is Venezuela can only be solved by dialogue and political will to seek solutions that respect democratic rights," said Aidan White, "It appears that President Chavez is travelling in the opposite direction."

The IFJ is calling on the government to stop interfering in the media and to denounce all attacks on journalists.

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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries