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The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemned the persecution by Venezuelan security forces against the Editor-in-Chief of El Nacional, José Gregorio Meza, and other journalists of the newspaper, in apparent reprisal for the publication of reports that displease the regime.
On January 25, a prosecutor of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP in Spanish) and agents of the Scientific, Criminal and Criminalistics Investigations Corps (CICPC in Spanish) went to Meza’s home and took him into custody “to take him to testify in relation to certain information published in El Nacional. So far, only investigation”, reported Meza in his social media. The following day, he went to the 94th National Prosecutor’s Office, where his cell phone was returned to him, according to the National Union of Press Workers on Twitter.
The following day, Meza went to the 94th National Prosecutor’s Office, where his cell phone was returned to him, the National Press Workers Union reported on Twitter.
Attack against El Nacional
The president and publisher of the newspaper, Miguel Henrique Otero, warned on Twitter about the “attack” and revealed that the MP also issued summons against him and five other workers of El Nacional, among these, the manager of Human Resources. He also denounced that the families of two journalists who are out of the country were threatened.
IAPA President Michael Greenspon and the chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, condemned “the recent actions of harassment against the journalists and editors of the newspaper.” Greenspon, global director of Licensing and Print Innovation of The New York Times, United States, and Jornet, editor of La Voz del Interior, Argentina, agreed in stating, “The political regime seeks to silence any expression that is contrary to its interests or that challenges it.”
Otero considered that the intimidation is related to the journalistic investigations published in early January on the newspaper’s website “about the brothers Santiago José and Ricardo José Morón”, alleged front men of Nicolás Maduro Guerra, son of the Venezuelan president. The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the Morón brothers in 2020.
Otero, who lives in exile in Spain, stated, “We will continue working; we will not be silenced.” El Nacional, which has been the target of government pressures, is only published in its digital version. In addition, the newspaper’s website and those of other independent media in Venezuela have been blocked since 2022.
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The IAPA executives mentioned that the regime repression is also evident in more than 300 media outlets closed in the last decade and the confiscation of the facilities of El Nacional in April 2022.
The IAPA Chapultepec Index 2021-2022 shows Venezuela in 21st place, the penultimate country in the table measuring the state of press freedom in the Americas. The Chapultepec Index is an annual barometer that measures institutional actions affecting press freedom and freedom of expression in 22 countries. The measurement is based on the principles of the IAPA’s Chapultepec and Salta Declarations.
The report on Venezuela, presented at the last IAPA General Assembly in Madrid, highlighted that: “it can be said that independent journalism ceased to exist in the country – as the government increased repression on journalistic activity and stepped up censorship by blocking and shutting down digital media and radio stations.”
The IAPA also issued at that meeting a resolution in which it urged “to promote instances to denounce this situation before the Organization of American States (OAS), the European Parliament, the United States Congress and other entities – in order to restore the infringed right to active and passive information of the Venezuelan people.”
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.