Key Developments

  • President's health, shrouded in mystery, leaves an uncertain political landscape.

  • Venezuela seeks to weaken Inter-American human rights system.

Fresh from his re-election in October, President Hugo Chávez Frías sought treatment in Cuba for the recurrence of an unspecified form of cancer, leaving the nation's political landscape in doubt as 2012 came to a close. Chávez said during the campaign that he was free of the cancer that first struck in 2011, although details of his medical condition were shrouded in mystery. In the lead-up to the vote that saw Chávez fend off challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski, the administration continued its systematic campaign against critical news coverage through legislation, threats, and regulatory measures while using unlimited airtime via its state media empire. The election heightened an already polarized environment: Both pro-government and pro-opposition journalists were attacked while covering campaign events. Chávez's campaign against press freedom extended beyond the country's borders in 2012. Venezuela was part of a bloc of countries within the Organization of American States that worked to dismantle the region's system of human rights protection, including the special rapporteur for freedom of expression. The government also announced that it was withdrawing from the American Convention on Human Rights, the first step required in order to pull out from the OAS' two human rights bodies.

[Refworld note: The sections that follow represent a best effort to transcribe onto a single page information that appears in tabs on the CPJ's own pages, which also include a number of dynamically-generated graphics not readily reproducible here. Refworld researchers are therefore strongly recommended to check against the original report: Attacks on the Press in 2012.]

Backing government: 52%

A survey by the National Council of Telecommunications, known as Conatel, concluded that a little more than 50 percent of news media supports the government, according to Espacio Público.

The media landscape, according to a Conatel study:

38.8: Allied with the government

13.2: Close to the government

24.9: Supportive of the opposition

5.5: Balanced

17: Not identified

Critical TV station: 1

Globovisión is the only television station critical of the government that is still on the air. The station has had to contend with regulatory fines, a stream of government scorn, and direct violence against its staff.

A campaign of harassment:

$2.16 million Fine paid by Globovisión after being sanctioned for its coverage of a prison riot. An appeal was pending in late year.

2 Globovisión journalists attacked while covering an opposition rally. The rally came under gunfire from men wearing the red shirts associated with supporters of Chávez, according to the station.

Cadenas, 1999-2012: 2,334

Chávez has pre-empted about 1,600 broadcast hours through the use of cadenas, presidential addresses that must be aired on all stations, according to local press freedom group Espacio Público.

Government controls on public information:

2: Years since homicide rates have been published.

3: Years since data on the country's water quality has been published.

1: Injunction by a court forbidding reporting on water without government data.

Hacking victims: 13

Several journalists had their email or Twitter accounts hacked in 2012, according to Espacio Público, many by a pro-government group called N33. Media outlets, both pro- and anti-government, were also attacked. Writers, human rights activists, opposition politicians, and government officials have also been targeted.

Hacking victims in the media

6: Individual journalists

3: Critical outlets

4: Pro-government outlets

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