JULY 27, 2005
Posted: August 8, 2005


The Attorney General’s Office opened a criminal investigation against the Caracas-based daily El Universal after it published an editorial that criticized the prosecutor’s office and the judiciary. The probe was launched under desacato (contempt) provisions, which criminalize expressions deemed offensive to public officials and state institutions.

In its July 25 edition, El Universal published a front-page editorial titled “Justicia arrodillada” (Justice on its Knees), saying that the criminal justice system had become politicized, had lost its autonomy, and had grown ineffective. As a result, the editorial argued, the Attorney General’s Office and Venezuelan courts were losing legitimacy.

On July 26, the Attorney General’s Office issued a press release rejecting charges of politicization of the justice system and accusing El Universal and Venezuelan media in general of engaging in unethical practices and biased coverage.

A day later, the office announced it had opened a criminal investigation to determine whether the editorial constitutes a crime. The editorial, the office said, “offends the Attorney General’s Office and the Judiciary, exposes them to public contempt, and allegedly disrespects them.”