IFJ Backs Journalists’ Protest over Venezuela Restriction on Press and Closure of RCTV

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today backed Venezuelan journalists in their call on National Journalists’ Day for freedom of the press and the right to report independently at a protest that focuses on the shut down of the country’s oldest broadcaster Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV).

“Venezuelan colleagues have faced numerous challenges over the years,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, “and they are deeply concerned that the Government in Caracas is engaged in a new phase of intimidation of media which can damage pluralism of opinion and stifle voices of dissent.”

The Venezuelan media workers’ union, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa, today leads a march of journalists, students and professional associations in Caracas who are demanding that the government of President Hugo Chávez respects freedom of expression and reverses the decision to ban RCTV. The IFJ says the broadcaster should be permitted to appeal against the decision to revoke its licence to broadcast. Today is Venezuela’s National Journalists’ Day.

Earlier this month at its World Congress in Moscow, IFJ members condemned systematic attacks by the government on freedom of expression and the elimination of RCTV as a free and independent television channel.

“This decision to shut down RCTV was especially troubling because it was done by Presidential decree that did not allow the station any legal recourse to contest the decision,” White said in a letter to Venezuelan ambassador to Belgium. “We are also aware that under the administration of President Chávez Venezuelan journalists have faced numerous challenges. The intemperate language of government hostility has prompted physical attacks, led to reduced access to sources of information, and encouraged legal actions against journalists.”

The IFJ believes that the Government’s action against RCTV and threats to other media undermines editorial independence and damages free expression.

“Venezuelans are victims of a polarized political process and media should be encouraged to play their role in promoting dialogue and pluralism,” said White. “The problem is that the government is increasingly intolerant of critical voices. That does serious damage to the aspirations of many who want social progress and economic development based upon democracy and dialogue.”

Click here to read the full text of the letter.

For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents about 600,000 journalists in 115 countries worldwide