Why is Venezuela ranked in the 133rd position in the 2010 World Press Freedom Index?

 Of the 178 countries ranked in the 2010 World Press Freedom Index Venezuela was situated in 133rd place, plunging nine places compared to the 124th place it occupied in 2009. The reasons for this decline are numerous. The major issue is of the State’s monopoly of the audio-visual terrestrial broadcast network, which determines many of the obstacles faced by the media and the journalists, especially those who continue to critique against President Chávez’s Government.

The situation regarding free press and the personal safety of journalists covering controversial issues or expressing critical views on the Government is disturbing. There are three issues causing serious concern from local and regional organizations monitoring the Freedom of Expression situation in Venezuela: Hard access to public information, court punishment for exercising the rights of freedom of expression and information, and the attacks on journalists. They are all being discussed in a private audience requested by the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP), the National Journalists’ Association (CNP), the NGO “Espacio Público” at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR).

 In relation to access to information, the NGO “Espacio Público” was subject of investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office earlier this year, for publishing information concerning the Comptroller General’s wages. A ruling issued by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice stated that such information was of a private nature. This week, the NGO are presenting a formal claim before the IACHR for the violation of the right to access public information.

 Regarding court penalties in exercising the right to information, the SNTP and the CNP will also visit the IACHR to present the case of journalist Francisco Pérez. Pérez was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison and was politically and professionally barred for a complaint lodged by him against Mayor Edgardo Parra and some comments made in his opinion column.

 As to attacks on journalists, the SNTP will emphasise the case of journalist Andrea Rocha and cameraman Víctor Labadi, who were attacked in central Aragua state by government followers when they were performing their functions.

 The Venezuelan Government has rejected the accusations against them by arguing that all the functions performed by the private media and opposition journalists are part of a “Mass media terrorism” strategy planned against the Government.

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