World press organization voices concern on Venezuela, México

The board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers has called on the Venezuelan authorities to guarantee all media in the country are allowed to work freely and without fear of reprisals ahead of upcoming presidential elections Oct. 7.

The board said it is deeply concerned by an intensifying pattern of attacks against both national and regional media. Judicial and administrative harassment, physical threats and public insults delivered by members of the government through the state-controlled media have become regular tactics aimed at stifling criticism, it said.

The board also called on the president-elect of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, to prioritize the safety of media professionals during his upcoming mandate.

In Venezuela the premises of daily Qué Pasa in the city of Maracaibo, Zulia state, were damaged in a grenade attack May 29. Hours later, 14 gunshots were fired at the Catatumbo TV building, while on June 3 several shots were fired at the headquarters of Versión Final daily newspaper, the World
Association board said. The organization held its annual meeting in Kiev, Ukraine

The Venezuelan supreme court June 28 upheld a $2.16 million fine against Globovisión and ordered the freezing of $5.7 million worth of the station’s assets. The TV channel, known for its staunch criticism of President Hugo Chávez, must also cover legal costs of $1.3 million, said the board. In an effort to avoid closure, Globovisión paid the Court’s initial fine, which led to the unfreezing of its assets a week later.

At least 35 journalists have been killed in Mexico since December 2006. In the past six months, five journalists have been murdered, four of them in the state of Veracruz in a single week. Many others have been kidnapped and threatened. Newspapers throughout the country suffer constant intimidation and armed attacks on their premises.

The board said it is deeply concerned that such violence, and the level of impunity the perpetrators enjoy, seriously jeopardizes Mexico’s democratic credentials. Citizens have increasingly limited access to the news because of widespread self-censorship, while news blackouts continue to be a reality across entire regions of the country, the board added.

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