The Electoral Observation Mission of the European Union (EU-EOM) presented its report on the Venezuelan elections on Tuesday and in one of the sections of the same condemned censorship against digital media.
Is about one of several irregularities in the electoral process held last Sunday in the Latin American country to choose regional and local authorities, and which are the conclusion of the work of 136 observers of the EU Member States.
In the space dedicated to media, the report devotes a long section to the digital media, that have grown in the country at the rate of the expansion of the internet and lack of trust in traditional media, often exacerbated by its lack of independence in relation to the government.
There, it collects the complaint made by civil society organizations about the so-called Law Against Hate, approved by the National Constituent Assembly in November 2017, identified as the main threat to the freedom of expression online. According to this provision, whoever publicly “encourages, promotes and incites hatred, discrimination or violence” could purge penalties from between 10 and 20 years in prison. The problem, they denounce, is that the law does not define these terms, leaving a wide margin of interpretation and limiting legal certainty.
Specifically, the dictatorship keeps 16 independent news portals blocked, one of the main options for Venezuelans to stay informed amid official censorship. Among the blocked media is Infobae, which has been banned in the Caribbean country since October 10, 2014.
This week it was also denounced that during the elections the forces of the Maduro regime they threatened a reporter with seizing the journalistic equipment and they prevented access to the voting center to several communicators that covered the regional elections on Sunday, according to the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) of Venezuela.
In relation to the more traditional map of the media in Venezuela, the report assures that they are the State-owned media those that dominate the panorama thanks to a reinforcement of their management and financing since the creation in 2006 of the Bolivarian Communication and Information System, dependent on the Ministry of Information. That reinforcement was in detriment of independent media, which have had to face technical and political difficulties in the same period.
“The administrative closures, equipment seizures and fear of retaliation, along with a lack of advertising revenue and paper shortages they have contributed to the impoverishment of the private media ”, the report details.
The report also analyzes the legal conditions in which the media in Venezuela operate, especially based on the activities of the communications regulatory body (CONATEL) and its exhortations. He also denounces that a “controversy” is in force. Law on Transparency and Access to Information of Public Interest of 2021, which “does not comply with international standards on freedom of the press, as it requires justifying requests for information.”
In addition, it denounces that since 2019 the CONATEL keeps international news channels on pay television blocked.
According to the monitoring of the EU-EOM, the coverage of the ruling party candidates on state television (VTV) it was “disproportionate ”, representing more than half of all candidate mentions and appearances on that channel. The candidates of the Democratic Alliance (AD) only 28% of the news and editorial content in VTV, while the MUD candidates were almost absent of state television, and its minimal coverage was negative.
The PSUV candidates also had a significant presence in two of the three monitored private television channels (Televén and Venevisión), followed by Alianza Democrática and the MUD. EU observers also noted that the candidates of the different parties did not have access to the state media in 15 states.
In addition, the report records that paid advertising (11%) and voter education (2%) by the CNE constitute an eighth of the monitored coverage. There were no electoral debates during the monitored hours.
Finally, the EU EOM reports that the State media jointly broadcast the public appearances of the PSUV candidates, while the opposition parties complained that the audiovisual media, both private and state, they broadcast all the acts of the Venezuelan president or high officials.