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Nicolás Maduro’s Dictatorship Attacks ‘El Nacional,’ the Largest Newspaper in Venezuela

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The newspaper El Nacional, Venezuela’s leading independent media, was once again attacked by the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. Last week, a prosecutor from the Public Prosecutor’s Office arrived accompanied by a commission of the Scientific, Criminal and Criminalistic Investigations Corps (Cicpc) at the home of journalist and editor-in-chief José Gregorio Meza. They took him away for questioning.

Since Chavismo came to power, the newspaper has faced judicial attacks and also threats for the practice of journalism. This attack comes almost a year after the newspaper’s headquarters were seized by the Chavista regime after publishing a report by the Spanish newspaper ABC, which involved the number two of the ruling party, Diosdado Cabello.

Defense of El Nacional and free journalism

Following the news of the interrogation of journalist José Gregorio Meza, Tamara Tarasiuk, Americas director of Human Rights Watch, said that this is a demonstration that the Venezuelan regime is intolerant of a free press.

“The regime over and over again shows its absolute intolerance of the independent press. In any society, the press plays a watchdog role. Journalists have the role of exposing reality, even if it is crude and difficult, and especially if it is uncomfortable for those in power. In a democracy, they contribute to a more robust debate (…) The latest attack against El Nacional is nothing more than that: a crude attempt to silence one of the few independent media that still dares to exist in Venezuela”, said Tamara Tarasiuk.

Similarly, Tarasiuk explained that this is an attack that has become systematic against the media. “It is undoubtedly recurrent and serious. Unfortunately, due to the context of the country, it is not surprising”. She also stated that it is necessary for the international community to denounce what is happening with the press in Venezuela, specifically with El Nacional.

“I believe it is essential to support the valuable and courageous work of El Nacional from all international spheres – the rapporteurs for freedom of expression, regional and UN human rights bodies. Governments must speak out when fundamental democratic guarantees such as freedom of the press are at stake. International support is key so that those in the trenches do not feel alone. And to raise the cost to the regime for the barbarities it does. It is not possible that it is free for them to sell internationally an image that they are trying to rebuild to obtain legitimacy when in the country they are attacking the media”.

Meanwhile, the president-editor of the newspaper, Miguel Henrique Otero, emphasized that the journalists of the newspaper will continue to fulfill their role and will continue to denounce irregularities in Venezuela. He indicated that this attack is due to an investigation made by the media about Nicolás Maduro’s son.

“This has to do with the investigative works that we have published about the Morón brothers, Santiago José and Ricardo José, because although I have been charged, and we are still not clear about the reasons, the two journalists who carried out the works have been requested by the Prosecutor’s Office. Although they do not live in Venezuela, Ramón Hernández and Carola Briceño have had their families threatened. They tell them that they should not publish anything else. They cannot do anything against them because they are out of the country, but they threaten their families”, said Otero.

Finally, he commented that he will add this situation to a file that he will present to the International Criminal Court. He pointed out that the persecution and attack on the media has been systematic.

“It is important to point out that this is in addition to the file we are taking to the International Criminal Court, where they opened the complaints for individuals. We will present the case of El Nacional with everything that has happened. Now, this is in addition. Of course, the ICC is very interested in these kind of things because it is a process that is advancing very fast and this is one more element because it is about freedom of expression, about harassment of journalists. It is a systematic action for a long time and it meets the requirements for complaints to the ICC, which is the systematization of the attacks.”

Williams Perdomo es periodista y escritor, especializado en las fuentes Política y Cultura.