Intimidation of journalists and actors in Venezuela

Peaceful Assembly

On the 1 August 2019, the National Bolivarian Guard used tear gas to repress a protest in Ciudad Ojeda, Zulia state. Community members had blocked access to a local road, peacefully protesting against energy rationing in the town. According to reports, 5 people had been detained. On 2 August 2019, NGO Foro Penal stated that four demonstrators were released under precautionary measures, which include court appearances every 60 days and prohibition of departure from the region.

Expression

On 15 July 2019, reporters Violeta Santiago and José Gregorio Rojas were intimidated and threatened by the National Bolivarian Guard as they covered fuel shortages in Mérida city, Mérida state. The guard yelled at the journalists to intimidate them and followed them to their vehicle, taking pictures and stating “let’s see who is braver, you or me”.

On 17 July 2019, public officials removed two journalists from the building of Venezuela’s National Electrical Corporation (Corpoelec) while were covering a meeting of workers from Corpoelec in Falcón. They had been invited by the workers to attend the meeting. According to a report by IPYS, on 22 July 2019, in the Lara state, six journalists were removed from a press conference with the Corpoelec Workers Union.

In another development, on 4 August 2019, the National Bolivarian Police (PNB) detained actors Aisak Ovalles and Pedro Huice, director Leunam Torres, and producer Johana Villafranca for using allegedly real police uniforms in their play “Dos Policías en apuros” (Two Policemen in Trouble). According to human rights CSO Espacio Público, the PNB interrupted the play on the evening of the arrest and took the detainees to the Maripérez police headquarters to be investigated for “usurpation of uniforms and insignias”. In one report, the police would have accused the artists of seeking to ridicule and prevaricate police functions. The four detained were released on the same day.

On 6 August 2019, CSO Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) released a special report on freedom of press in Venezuela between January and the end of June 2019. According to IPYS, at least 99 media outlets reported having been affected by the power outages, censorship and acts of intimidation against journalists. Radio stations were the most affected, with 65 radio stations reporting interruption to programming, particularly in the context of blackouts in Venezuela. IPYS highlighted that there were also 15 cases where theft and attacks affected media outlets in the country, including through the theft of internet connection cables and antennae, destruction of equipment and vandalisation of offices. 33 of the cases registered involved censorship of television and radio programmes.

Association

On 5 August 2019, human rights organisation Foro Penal published the latest update on the numbers of political prisoners in Venezuela. As of 5 August 2019 there were 547 political prisoners: 495 men and 52 women, 107 of whom are military and 12 are teenagers. According to Gonzalo Himiob, vice-president of Foro Penal, there are also 8.850 people who are still subject to unjust criminal proceedings, for political reasons, having been released with precautionary measures.