Country Summary

The vociferous debate over Venezuela’s controversial 1994 licensing law for working journalists continued, as several publishers tried unsuccessfully to challenge the rule. The law requires media companies to employ journalists with a degree from a Venezuelan university and membership in the Colegio Nacional de Periodistas, a national journalists’ guild.

Publishers fear that the press law is hobbling publications that specialize in areas such as business, medicine, and international affairs. Media owners have tried unsuccessfully to challenge the constitutionality of the 1972 law that established the Colegio.

In one important case in Venezuela, a court on Nov. 26 sentenced William Ojeda, author of a book titled How Much is a Judge Worth?, to one year in prison for defamation. Two judges mentioned in the book initiated the lawsuit in 1995. The book examines the Venezuelan justice system in the wake of high-level corruption and government-initiated reforms. Ojeda does not have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court. His sentence was scheduled to begin on Jan. 23, 1997. CPJ sent an appeal to President Rafael Caldera urging him to grant Ojeda a presidential pardon.

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