Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists commented late last week on the Venezuelan court decision that bans news media from reporting pollution figures not approved by the central government.
Daniel Guédez, a criminal court judge in the capital, Caracas, ruled on March 21 that any media reports on the quality of the local water supply must be based upon “a truthful technical report supported by a competent government body,” the Attorney General’s office reported. News accounts in recent weeks had questioned whether a nearby river that provides drinking water was contaminated with chemicals. The government has denied that the water is contaminated, news reports said.
The ban was issued at the request of three citizens with the aim of verifying whether the media “campaign” about the alleged pollution constitutes an offence requiring a criminal investigation. According to attorney-general Luisa Ortega, no serious evidence has been produced to support the claims.
The Chavez government has already passed laws that make criminalizing “promoting panic” — basically anything that is critical of government policies.
A couple of years ago a court stopped the news media from running pictures of crime leading up to the September elections. The move came on the heels of a steady campaign to shut down Venezuelan broadcasters critical of the government.