IFJ Condemns "vicious" Presidential Campaign Against Media in Venezuela

The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalist's group today expressed concern over the deteriorating conditions for press freedom in Venezuela accusing President Chavez of "a vicious campaign against the independent media".

The President says media have no respect for ethics, that they are paid for lying and manipulating and that they are used indiscriminately to serve the interest of the communication media owners. His intemperate attacks have led to journalists and media coming under attack.

"The president has created an atmosphere of hate and intolerance against journalism that is threatening the physical safety of journalists," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Journalists carrying media equipment are being attacked by gangs in the streets encouraged by people from the ruling party."

IFJ leaders meeting in Brussels at the weekend agreed to send a solidarity mission to Venezuela to express support on the spot to journalists who are being targeted.

The situation has led to the targeting of the newspaper El Nacional in January when it was attacked by an angry mob. Later that month, an explosive was hurled against the newspaper Así es la Noticia. Both newspapers are owned by editor Miguel Henrique Otero. Likewise, attacks have occurred against the television channel Globovisión and various radio reporters.

"This situation is getting worse and the President must tone down his language before someone gets seriously hurt," said Aidan White. President Chavez insists that the fall in his popularity -- at the beginning of his term it was at 80% and now it is nearer - is due to the manipulation of the communication media.

"The President should not look for scapegoats to blame for his own political problems," said Aidan White, "Journalists and media are only doing their job and they should not be targeted and victimised for telling the truth - even when it hurts political leaders."