Press advocate deplores Venezuelan action

The speaker of Venezuela’s national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, has filed civil and criminal charges against several Venezuelan media outlets for reproducing information published by a Spanish publication.

The national assembly Tuesday approved a report by its new media permanent committee that rejected what it said was a campaign by Venezuelan and international media against Cabello. The case refers to statements by Cabello’s former security chief, Leamsy Salazar, who was said to be collaborating with United States authorities investigating Cabello’s alleged involvement with a drug cartel. This information was published Jan. 27 by the newspaper ABC in Spain and reproduced by several Venezuelan media outlets.

The Inter American Press Association today condemned the speaker’s action.

Association President Gustavo Mohme said “We condemn the fact that in Venezuela the government always describes as media campaigns and conspiracies any information that can be critical of that points out wrongdoing.” Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, added, “In these cases the government should investigate and clarify the alleged denunciations, instead of berating the media and suing them for what they reproduce.”

Cabello filed civil and criminal charges against “shareholders, editors, editorial boards and owners” of the newspaper El Nacional and digital platforms La Platilla and Tal Cual, as well as against Spain’s ABC.

Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, said, “This action is one more demonstration of the ease that the regime has to use an acquiescent judicial body with the intent of accusing the media and journalists and violating press freedom and the people’s right to know the facts.” He is chairman of the association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information.

The Inter American Press Association  also condemned threats made to journalists in the Brazilian state of Parana and called on the authorities there to investigate and determine the source of the harassment, ensure the journalists’ safety and respect the right to keep news sources confidential.

One of the most recent cases concerns James Alberti, producer with the RPCTV television channel affiliated with Globo TV and director of the Brazilian Investigative Journalism Association, who left the state after receiving death threats April 9, following the broadcast of a report on alleged corruption and pedophilia in the state tax office in the city of Londrina, Parana.

The Parana Journalists Union also reported several weeks ago that journalists covering the issue of public security in the state have been pressured and browbeaten by officials and members of the military to reveal their news sources used in a series of reports in 2012 in which they denounced wrongdoing in the local police force. The reporters since 2013 have been called in as witnesses in official investigations more than 20 times.

Another case was reported concerning journalist Lina Hamdar of the newspaper Metro Curitiba, who was called in to reveal the source for an article about a female doctor accused of murdering patients in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Curitiba, the Parana state capital.

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