VENEZUELA: ARE JOURNALISTS PERSECUTED, THREATENED OR HARASSED BECAUSE OF THE WAY THEY COVER THE NEWS?
Report from Sumate.org
1. Recently, a number of well-known journalists and anchor men and women have been ordered to appear before the Public Prosecutor and the Courts of the Republic to testify regarding news that affects the government's image. Patricia Poleo, Ibeyise Pacheco, Napoleon Bravo, Leopoldo Castillo and Marta Colomina are among the journalists who have been summoned.
2. Some of these journalists have been accused by public officials. They are: Patricia Poleo, Director of the newspaper El Nuevo País; Ibéyise Pacheco, columnist for the newspaper El Nacional, Director of Así es la Noticia and radio anchor woman; and Marianella Salazar, columnist for El Nacional and radio anchor woman.
3. Patricia Poleo, director of the newspaper El Nuevo País, and Tamoa Calzadilla reporter for the newspaper Ultimas Noticias, were summoned to reveal their sources in the investigation carried out by the Public Prosecutor regarding the leaking of documents related to the case of the death of prosecutor Danilo Anderson.
4. In the case of Patricia Poleo pressure tactics became even more evident when her house was raided by the police in search of documents that might reveal her sources. The journalist was further notified that charges will be brought against her for her allegedly illegal use of information and classified documents related to the Danilo Anderson case.
5. When the newspaper El Nuevo País published a photo of a person identified as the Minster of the Interior and of Justice, Jesse Chacon, bent over a dead body at the headquarters of the TV station Venezolana de Television, the Minister filed a suit for libel against Patricia Poleo, arguing that he was not the person in the photograph. Following a brief trial Patricia Poleo was sentenced to six months in jail. As it was a first offence the sentence was later suspended, however Ms Poleo was forced to pay the total costs of the trial and to publish the sentence twice, with an interval of seven days, in the newspapers El Nuevo Pais and El Nacional.
6. Ibéyise Pacheco, a reporter for the newspaper El Nacional and anchor woman for a radio opinion program, was sentenced to nine months in jail following a suit for libel brought against her by Colonel Angel Bellorin.
7. Pacheco was also charged by Office 56 of the Public Prosecutor for information she published on May 2003, in her column "In Private" in the newspaper El Nacional, based on a recording of a meeting at the Presidential Palace (Palacio de Miraflores) between the Vice-President José Vicente Rangel and the Ministers Aristóbulo Istúriz and Maria Cristina Iglesias.
8. The journalist Napoleón Bravo was charged by the Office of the Public Prosecutor for the alleged crime of incitation to hate for having mentioned the grandchild of the Vice-President of the Republic.
9. Marianella Salazar, a columnist for the newspaper El Nacional and anchor woman of a radio program, was charged for libel when she denounced alleged irregularities committed by the Vice-President José Vicente Rangel and the Governor of the State of Miranda, Diosdado Cabello.
10. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission has been expressing its concern with the situation of journalists in Venezuela, ever since the year 2002. Some journalists have filed suits for physical aggression by government officials or sympathizers. Some of these journalists have been granted precautionary protection measures, however these have not been very effective and, in the opinion of the journalists concerned, the government has not made an effort to insure their enforcement.
11. In view of the Government's failure to enforce the precautionary measures approved by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, this body urged the Inter American Human Rights Court to order the Venezuelan State to adopt the Provisional Measures for the protection of journalists' right to life, personal integrity and freedom of expression ( http://www.corteidh.or.cr/seriee/index.html#luisiana ) and to insure the protection of some print and audiovisual media's equipment and headquarters. During the last two years, the Inter American Court has issued several resolutions ordering such provisional protection. ( http://www.corteidh.or.cr/paises/venezuela.html )
12. During the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 several television and radio stations and newspaper headquarters were attacked by government sympathizers. Hundreds of street reporters were also subject to attacks, so much so that they were forced to wear bullet proof vests, helmets and gas masks to protect themselves from attacks by the National Guard and violent pro-government groups. All episodes of aggression to media headquarters and reporters by pro-government sympathizers followed some speech or declaration by the President or high level government officials against private media. Congressman Alberto Jordán Hernandez bore witness to some of these attacks.