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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Freedom of the press and the Internet in Venezuela fell in 2012: Freedom House




In the last twelve months in Venezuela, there has been a decline of Internet freedom, showing a substantial increase in the censorship of opinions about political events, like the death of Hugo Chávez and the presidential elections in April, according to the report Freedom on the Net published by Freedom House in early October.

Among the Latin American countries that Freedom House evaluated in its report, Venezuela and Cuba were the states with the highest content restriction on the web, as well as in in print, television and radio.

According to Freedom House, in 2012 there was an increase in cyber attacks by governments and their supporters against their opponents. At least 31 of the 60 countries that were surveyed reported such attacks.

For example, in Venezuela, during the presidential campaigns of 2012 and 2013, several websites of recognized independent media, like Noticiero Digital, Globovisión and La Patilla, were the target of denial-of-service attacks. These attacks increased during voting and the recount process.  

After the death of reelected President Hugo Chávez and the constant tensions between the opposition and President Nicolás Maduro, the use of digital media in Venezuela has gone up. According to the report, the Maduro government, in response to the popularity of this technology among Venezuelans and opponents of his government, has increased efforts to control and restrict Internet content.

Although there are private companies that provide Internet service in Venezuela, it is the government that dominates the market through the Compañía Anónima Nacional Teléfonos de Venezuela (CANTV).

Venezuelans use the Internet primarily to visit social networks - there are about 10 million Venezuelan users on Facebook and 3 million on Twitter - to read news and search for information, according to a recent study by the Social Bakers Market.

The Freedom House report also accounts for the deterioration of Internet freedom, observed in many democratic countries, as a struggle to achieve a balance between freedom of expression and national security.

Apart from cyberattacks to criticism pages and opposition groups during key political moments such as elections, attacks or protest marches, the governments of the evaluated countries also used temporary suspensions of online services, blocking websites and manipulating the speed of network connections to make them slower, as methods of censorship and restriction.

Cuba, China and Iran were cataloged by the report, for the second consecutive year, as the most repressive countries in terms of Internet freedom.

In regard to physical assaults and murders, at least one person was attacked in all 26 countries. Tens of digital media journalists were killed in Mexico and Syria.



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