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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Media outlets taken off air, social networks blocked and journalists attacked during day of demonstrations in Venezuela



At least three media outlets were taken off the air and 14 journalists were hit by pellets, beaten or suffered other aggressions while carrying out their work during a tense day in Venezuela after opposition leaders called for the end of Nicolás Maduro's government on April 30 in what they called "Operación Libertad" (Operation Freedom).

The channels CNN and BBC were removed from the cable operator DirecTV in the country, according to the organization Espacio Público. Both channels had been broadcasting live what was happening in Caracas.

Likewise, Radio Caracas Radio reported through its Twitter account that "after 89 years of uninterrupted transmission, the pioneer of Venezuelan broadcasting was taken off the air." The station has continued to broadcast through its Twitter account.

Edison Lanza, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), condemned the the removal of the station "in critical moments for the transition to democracy," as he wrote on Twitter. According to him, the order was given by the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) which he said is "managed by the regime.”

On its Twitter account, the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP, for its initials in Spanish) posted the document published by Conatel in which the closure of this station is ordered. According to SNTP, the authority said that the space was not occupied, despite it being on the air for 89 years.

The day of protests began with a video published by Juan Guaidó, recognized by some countries as the interim president of Venezuela, outside La Carlota Air Base, as he was accompanied by soldiers and invited citizens to remove the government of Nicolás Maduro, BBC Mundo reported. He was also accompanied by Leopoldo López, an opposition leader sentenced to 14 years of house arrest for his role in the 2014 demonstrations. His sentence was rejected by some organizations as political.

In an interview with CNN, Guaidó explained that López's release was part of a process decreed by himself to free political prisoners.

Access to platforms such as Youtube, Twitter, Periscope and Facebook, among others, was restricted by state Internet provider ABA CANTV after Guaidó announced his plans through these networks, according to Netblocks. This site also added that the service returned to normal just 20 minutes before Maduro made his presidential address by 9 p.m. local time.

SNTP also continuously reported aggressions against journalists and media outlets covering the protests throughout the day. According to its records, there were 16 attacks on the right to access information and 14 journalists were affected in carrying out their work.

One of the most serious cases was that of photojournalist Julio Colmenárez of the newspaper El Informador who was shot by pellets. As a result he was left with a radial fracture in the left hand and pellet impacts on both arms, according to SNTP.

Efecto Cocuyo journalist Isaac González was beaten and robbed allegedly by armed groups called colectivos, SNTP said. Meanwhile, in Lara state, people threw a tear-gas bomb at a correspondent for VPI TV while they were covering a protest, the organization added.

Guaidó renewed calls for protests on May 1. “We continue with more strength than ever Venezuela,” he posted to Twitter. Maduro said pro-government demonstrations were also planned for May Day, according to BBC.



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