PARIS, France — Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is launching a campaign with a disturbing visual on social networks to draw the international public’s attention to the persecution of journalists and censorship of the media that is intensifying dramatically throughout Venezuela.
Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, marked by mounting social unrest and protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government, has resulted in growing authoritarianism and hostility towards the media and journalists in 2017.
RSF has issued a series of press releases this year, including one on 27 June, celebrated as Day of the Journalist in Venezuela, voicing concern about the government crackdown and the increase in violence against news and information providers.
In the latest example, four journalists were arrested (and placed in per-trial detention) and many others were attacked or threatened during the constituent assembly election on 30 July.
Maduro publicly accused two TV channels, Televen and Venevisión, of “media terrorism” by providing live coverage of street protests. He also asked the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) to investigate Televen for “condoning crime.”
It was CONATEL that pressured many TV and radio stations not to cover the opposition’s anti-Maduro referendum on 16 July – a censorship attempt that was condemned by several journalists’ organizations including the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) and the National Association of Journalists (CNP).
On the day of the vote, armed men attacked Luis Olavarrieta, a journalist with the Caraota Digital news website.
Amid the growing tension in Venezuela, the #SOSPress message that RSF has launched on social networks is an appeal for assistance and for campaigning support. It uses a disturbing image to symbolize the violence that Venezuelan journalists are now facing on a daily basis.
“The camera exploding under the impact of a bullet, the overshadowed press armband and the masked mouth of a journalist are symbols of the dangerous escalation of violence and are meant to draw the public’s attention to the threats to free speech and media freedom in Venezuela,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau.