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LatinNews Daily - 12 January 2021

VENEZUELA: Maduro clamps down on opposition media

On 11 January, the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), a US-based press advocacy group, condemned “the escalation of attacks against Venezuelan media” by the de facto government led by Nicolás Maduro.

Analysis:

IAPA echoed criticisms made by Venezuela’s national press workers’ union (SNTP) and by opposition politicians after a number of media organisations were shut down or threatened by the Maduro government on 8 January. The Maduro administration has long stood accused of posing a threat to press freedom, especially for media organisations thought to be affiliated with political opponents or international critics; this latest wave of attacks seem to have been prompted at least partly by allegations that a number of its targets had received funding from the United Kingdom (UK) government.

  • IAPA president, Jorge Canahuati, denounced this “new wave of aggressions”, citing the shutting-down of television channel VPITV and a cyber-attack against digital news outlet Tal Cual (both linked to the political opposition) on 8 January, and reporting that the government had threatened media organisations claimed to have received UK funding – one of which, radio station Radio Fe y Alegría, was raided by unidentified assailants on 8 January.
  • SNTP had raised the alert that same day regarding “a new attempt to silence the media” in Venezuela, and just hours later opposition leader Juan Guaidó accused the government of “systematically violating freedom of expression”; he added on 11 January that “the goal of the dictatorship is to silence and annihilate the democratic alternative”.
  • Government officials have not discussed the closures or attacks, but on 8 January Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza condemned “the rude interference of the UK government in the internal processes of Venezuela … financing opposition organisations and media”, and pledged to raise a complaint with the United Nations.
  • The British embassy in Venezuela had released a statement the previous day acknowledging the existence of “co-operation projects with various independent organisations to support the improvement of the capacities of Venezuelan journalists”, but insisted that this information is all public, and these activities above board.

Looking Ahead: With Venezuela's opposition in a weakened position following its boycott of the 6 December 2020 legislative election, the Maduro government seems to have sensed an opportunity to consolidate its advantage, and further attacks on opposition media organisations will likely follow.