Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro’s Mini-Me and dictator of Venezuela, is an insult to humanity and freedom-loving people everywhere.
Here’s an excerpt of a U.S. State Department report on the latest goings on in the oil-rich Latin American nation:
Desacato or “insult” laws, which have been used to punish journalists for challenging their country’s leaders, have been part of the criminal code in most Latin American nations since their independence in the 19th century. Now, with most of the region enjoying greater freedom of expression, enforcement of the laws largely has stopped.
However, the need for their permanent removal is reinforced by the example of President Hugo Chavez’s administration, where the Venezuelan state has been using desacato laws to jail, silence and intimidate journalists, and even has enacted further measures to stifle the media’s ability to convey perspectives to the Venezuelan people that differ from those of the regime.
“These laws have intimidated journalists,” said Alfredo Ravell, director of Venezuela’s Globovision Television Network. He told USINFO that with the constant threat of state sanctions, journalists in his country tend to practice self-censorship lest they report information that could raise the ire of those in power.
“Cases of corruption or those in which public officials are directly or indirectly criticized are the ones of more concern for journalists, who feel their reports could bring accusations for desacato,” Ravell said.
CRACKDOWN ON RCTV AN OMINOUS PRECEDENT
The risks faced by Venezuelan journalists have a clear example in case of RCTV, which will be effectively silenced May 27 due to the Chavez regime’s refusal to renew its broadcasting license. The television network has been one of the few to express critical editorial opinions and present information that differs from the official state position.
Ravell considers the treatment of RCTV an ominous sign for the future of press freedom in Venezuela.
“[G]overnment spokespeople constantly mention measures against media outlets who are ‘enemies of the revolution’ or ‘imperialists’ and so on … and that suggests that after RCTV, attacks against other media will follow,” he said.
Globovision, is facing increased pressure from the regime and its journalists also have been the target of violent attacks over the past few years, including during Venezuela’s recent election campaign, Ravell said.
Desacato laws also were used by the Chavez government in 2006 to reopen criminal proceedings against journalist NapoleÃ³n Bravo on charges that he defamed the country’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice. In its 2006 report on the state of freedom of expression in the Western Hemisphere, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States, said Venezuela has used desacato laws to prosecute reporter Gustavo AzÃ³car and the editor of El Siglo newspaper, Mireya Zurita.