CARACAS – Venezuela saw almost 70 newspapers, TV and radio stations close in 2017 while attacks on journalists rose, the main union representing the media said Wednesday, accusing the socialist government of trying to “silence” the press.
The National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) said 46 radio stations, three television channels and around 20 newspapers had been shuttered in the past year.
The union also recorded 498 attacks on journalists as well as 66 arrests.
It ascribed this to efforts by the government of President Nicolas Maduro to “silence — at whatever price — the discontent about the ever-worsening economic and social situation,” which includes hyperinflation and scarcities of basic goods such as food and medicine.
The number of attacks on members of the press was up 26.5 percent on 2016, when 360 acts of aggression against media workers were recorded, the union said.
Most of the attacks took place during deadly anti-government street protests between April and June, which left 125 people dead, according to the union, which said that around 70 percent of those deaths were at the hands of the police or armed forces.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued an “urgent call” this year for the resumption of broadcasts by radio and TV stations that had been taken off the air.
Maduro and his aides have denounced local and international media for what they term a “smear campaign” and “wartime propaganda” aimed at the government.
Broadcasters have been forced to close down after their licenses expired and were not re-issued, while many newspapers have been unable to buy paper, whose distribution is managed by a government-controlled company.
Those newspapers that did manage to remain in operation have had to cut the number of pages and print runs, the union said.
International media have also had their operations impacted: CNN’s Spanish-language broadcasts, as well as channels from neighboring Colombia, have been removed from cable packages at the government’s behest.