Media freedom in Venezuela in the spotlight

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Media freedom in Venezuela in the spotlight

Media freedom in Venezuela in the spotlight
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What, at first glance, looks like a bunker, is in fact a TV station.The headquarters of Globovision have been protected by police since Hugo Chavez died.

Why? Because the broadcaster is critical of the government. And Hugo Chavez’ millions of supporters do not like that.

A demonstrator camped nearby wants Globovision’s license revoked. “This is war by media,” he says, “When Comandante Chavez was alive, they attacked him constantly.”

Globovision staff say they face daily harassment, both direct and indirect. Dozens of Chavez supporters circled the building on motorbikes on the day he died.

But staff allege pressure has also been applied in indirect ways. They list battles over control of shares and advertising revenue, for example, as well as the manipulation of public opinion.

“I think the plan is to condemn us and influence public opinion so that it goes against us too. Some of our employees have even been attacked on the streets while working. That is tough to take, because the streets are our beat and we go out there every day,” Elsy Barroeta, Director of Information at Globovision, told euronews.

Reporter Derek Blanco says he has already been targeted. One day, covering a story in the national assembly, he and his crew had to be rescued by police.

He explained that his cameraman was wearing a Globovision shirt, and when a group of around 50 people realised this, they surrounded the crew and tried to take their camera. Then they tried to punch them.

Globovision bosses fear they will also be excluded from the upcoming digital TV spectrum TDT. The uncertain future of Globovision mirrors the uncertain future of Venezuela itself.

“Intimidation of the press was one of darker sides of the Chavez administration,” says our correspondent Luis Carballo in Caracas. “In the decade he was in power, almost all independent media disappeared, either closed or bought up by the government. Globovision is the last remaining channel critical of the government – but for how long?”