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Key Developments

» Wielding regulatory and judicial tools, government targets critical broadcaster, weekly.

» President's health problems treated as state secret, fuel speculation ahead of 2012 vote.

President Hugo Chávez Frías’ administration continued its systematic campaign to stifle critical reporting through regulatory, judicial, and legislative avenues. The telecommunications regulator fined Globovisión, the country's sole critical television station, more than US$2 million for its coverage of deadly prison riots in June and July. The regulator invoked the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, one of the region’s most restrictive measures. Prosecutors brought criminal charges against two executives of a critical weekly concerning a satirical article and photo montage that depicted high-ranking female officials as playing roles in a “cabaret” directed by Chávez. The weekly was briefly shut, and one executive was imprisoned for nearly three months. The Chávez administration used its extensive state media operation to spread political propaganda and wage smear campaigns against its critics. Chávez’s announcement that Cuban doctors had found and removed a cancerous tumor fueled speculation about the country’s political future as the October 2012 presidential election approached. Official information about the president’s health was scarce and treated as if it were a state secret.

  • $2.16 million

    Fine against Globovisión
  • 82

    Days in prison
  • 1

    Killed in 2011, motive unconfirmed
  • 13

    Rejected U.N. recommend- ations
  • 6

    Email, Twitter accounts hacked

Conatel, Venezuela's telecommunications regulator, fined Globovisión for its coverage of a tense 27-day standoff between government troops and prisoners at the country's El Rodeo II Prison in the city of Guatire. Regulators alleged the station violated the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television.

Breakdown of Globovisión case:


Proportion of fine in relation to Globovisión's annual income


Times that Globovisión broadcast interviews with relatives of prison inmates


Members of Conatel's 11-member social responsibility directorate who are executive branch appointees


Leocenis García, owner of the weekly 6to Poder, was detained in August after his paper ran a satirical article that compared senior female officials in the Chávez administration to cabaret dancers. He was charged with incitement to hatred, insulting officials, and denigrating women. García was freed in November, but charges were pending.

Breakdown of 6to Poder case:


Week ban placed on 6to Poder by a judge after the article's publication.


Days that 6to Poder executive Dinorah Girón was jailed on the same charges. She was released but was ordered to appear in court every 15 days.

The body of Wilfred Iván Ojeda, a political columnist and opposition activist, was found in a vacant lot, gagged, hooded, and bound, with a gunshot to the head, according to local investigators. CPJ was investigating to determine whether the killing was related to his journalism.

Breakdown of fatalities in Venezuela since 1992:


Fatalities directly related to journalism


Fatalities in which the motive was unclear

The administration rejected all 13 recommendations concerning freedom of expression that were made during the country's Universal Periodic Review before the U.N. Human Rights Council in October.

The recommendations, part of a larger human rights package, had called for the adoption of access-to-information legislation and the repeal of laws that criminalize insulting a public official.

Breakdown of Universal Periodic Review recommendations:
148: Total number of recommendations
95: Recommendations accepted (others were being considered)
0: Recommendations accepted concerning freedom of expression
38: Recommendations rejected, including all 13 freedom of expression items


Six critical journalists and columnists, including 2010 CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Laureano Márquez, saw their Twitter accounts hacked in September. The hackers, going under the name N33, effectively took over the accounts. The group said it was independent of the government but was defending Chávez's honor, according to the International Press Institute. Eight opposition politicians and activists were also targeted.

Impact of the hacking, according to IPI:


Total number of people who followed the victims on Twitter, according to the hackers.


People who followed journalist Berenice Gómez before the hacking.


People who followed Gómez in late September, after she was forced to open a new Twitter account.

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