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Key Developments

» Turmoil surrounding Chávez's death and Maduro's election heightens tension.

» Sale of Globovisión leaves country without a critical broadcaster.

A climate of uncertainty and tension surrounded the death of President Hugo Chávez after his tightly guarded struggle with cancer and the election of his handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro. Coverage of both events resulted in widespread attacks on and harassment of journalists. The government's campaign against critical broadcaster Globovisión continued with the eighth sanction against the TV network in eight years, this time regarding a report that questioned the legality of postponing the inauguration of the then-ailing Chávez. After years of harassment, the broadcaster's owner sold the company to businessmen rumored to have close ties to the government, and the station subsequently changed its editorial tone. In a move that critics described as unconstitutional, Maduro signed a decree creating the Strategic Center for Security and Protection of the Fatherland, or CESPPA, which he said would protect the country from outside threats. But journalists and press freedom groups said it gave the state vast powers that would be used to intimidate and censor the media. His government also targeted journalists, websites and Internet service providers in an attempt to suppress the country's grim economic news. The government also made good on its long-term threat and officially withdrew from the American Convention on Human Rights, a cornerstone of the human rights system of the Organization of American States.

  • 2

    Dailies sanctioned
  • 42

    Days imprisoned
  • 0

    Critical TV stations
  • 57

    Press freedom violations in one month

A judge ruled that El Nacional and Tal Cual had violated a Venezuelan law aimed at protecting children and adolescents when they published a photograph of bodies in a morgue on their covers in 2010. The appeal was continuing in late 2013.

Decision against freedom of expression:

August 13, 2010:

Caracas-based daily El Nacional publishes an archival photograph of corpses piled up in a local morgue as part of a front-page news report on rising crime in the weeks leading up to legislative elections. 

August 16, 2010:

A judge temporarily bars El Nacional from publishing graphic images that could "alter the psychological and moral well-being of children and adolescents."

August 16, 2010:

In a show of solidarity after the ruling, Tal Cual reprints El Nacional's morgue image.

August 17, 2010:

A court bars all Venezuelan print media from publishing violent images for one month.

August 19, 2010:

After an international outcry, the general ban is lifted, but temporary photo prohibitions remain in place against El Nacional and Tal Cual

August 8, 2013:

A judge upholds the ban prohibiting El Nacional and Tal Cual from publishing "images of violent content, guns, physical aggression, bloody scenes, and naked cadavers" and imposes a fine of 1 percent of the dailies' 2009 earnings. The dailies appeal.

In the tense aftermath of the election to replace Chávez, U.S. filmmaker Timothy Hallet Tracy was jailed for more than a month on trumped-up charges of espionage, according to news reports. Tracy, who had been filming events in the country since 2012, was freed after 42 days in jail and deported due to a lack of sufficient evidence, according to the filmmaker's attorney.

An unjust imprisonment:


Previous short-term detentions of Tracy by intelligence officials.


Videos confiscated by authorities that they said proved Tracy was plotting to destabilize the country on behalf of an unidentified U.S. intelligence agency. The videos they presented showed young people making jokes in a room.

Faced with increasing hostilities and the near-certainty that Globovisión would not be allowed to renew its transmission license, the broadcaster's owner sold the network to businessmen rumored to have close ties to the Venezuelan government. The editorial line of the previously combative station quickly shifted, leaving the country with no reliably independent and critical broadcaster.

After years of harassment, a broadcaster changes its tone:


Anti-government programs canceled within a week of the sale.


People who stopped following the station's Twitter account in the 48 hours after the cancellations, according to news reports.


Days after the sale, the station's new leader spoke with President Maduro in a meeting that would have been inconceivable under previous ownership.


Globovisión journalists resigned en masse two months after the sale, citing the "unacceptable condition for the free exercise of our profession."

Local press freedom group IPYS Venezuela documented at least 57 press freedom violations in April 2013, the month in which elections were held to replace Chávez. Nicolás Maduro, Chávez's handpicked successor, narrowly defeated Henrique Capriles Radonski, who had run against Chávez in his re-election bid the year before. The abuses included physical aggression, intimidation, obstruction of coverage, censorship, attacks on media outlets, and short-term detentions.

Anti-press violations around elections, according to IPYS:


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