Venezuela Government and Media
Government Type: Federal Presidential Republic
Chief of State: Self-Proclaimed President Juan Guaido (Recognized by the United States as the Interim President)
Head of Government: Nicolas Maduro
Political Party: United Socialist Party of Venezuela or PSUV
Political Position: Socialist
World Press Freedom Rank: Venezuela 147/180
In 2020 Reporters Without Borders ranked Venezuela 147/180 in their Press Freedom Index. The organization expresses its concern over President Maduro’s authoritarian ruling and using his power to pressure and control media outlets. In addition, Freedom House notes that in Venezuela arrests and violence against reporters by the police and intelligence services are increasing and press freedom continues to deteriorate in the country.
Government Influence on Media: The elected President of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro, however, the United States argues that Maduro rigged his 2018 re-election and backs Self-Proclaimed President opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president. In order to oust President Maduro, oil sanctions were imposed by the United States. According to Reuters, the United States also ordered “oil trading houses and refiners around the world to further cut dealings with Venezuela,” which caused a collapse in the price of oil. As a result, since 2017, these sanctions deteriorated the Venezuelan economy, causing an economic crisis, widespread food shortages, power outages, and protests led by the opposition resulting in more than 40,000 deaths from 2017–2018. Under these circumstances, media reforms are not likely in Venezuela, where there are currently two presidents, as well as a political and an economic crisis. According to a Time article, in Venezuela most television stations are state-run, and due to State censorship ‘Venezuelans Are Starving for Information.’ However, according to media watchdog, Fair.org Venezuela has three major private TV stations which are Venevision, Televen, and Globovisión. Further, Venezuela has state-run VTV and private radio stations such as Radio Caracas Radio owned by Empresas 1BC (also known as Grupo Phelps) which also owns Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) that was subsequently closed by late president Chavez on the grounds it backed a brief 2002 coup against him. Reuters reports that they operate only via cable TV. Finally, there are TV stations that broadcast from Miami for Venezuelan diaspora living in the USA such as EVTV.
Although the media landscape features private broadcasters, according to the Open Society Foundations sponsored Venezuela’s Press Institute IPYS, the national telecoms regulator “closed 40 radio stations in 2017 citing irregularities in their licenses.” As a result “The closures have left coverage increasingly in the hands of “state-controlled radio and television outlets and pro-government newspapers like Ultimas Noticias”. When it comes to print media, the number of print newspapers is declining dramatically similar to the rest of the world, however, Venezuela still has newspapers that are in print. According to this Salon article “Venezuela has five nationwide dailies still in print, the majority of which are anti-government. While Últimas Noticias and of course state-run Correo del Orinoco take a pro-government line, any cursory glance at El Universal, Diario 2001, and La Voz will find them all to be staunchly anti-Chavista.”
In conclusion, despite Venezuela being in the midst of an economic and political crisis caused by sanctions, it has a vibrant media landscape as they have both state-owned and privately-owned media outlets that represent a pro and opposition government line. Government has control over state-owned media that promotes a pro-government bias, while privately owned outlets tend to favor the opposition. Although press freedom is eroding among the chaos, there still remains some plurality as both sides tend to be represented in one form or another. However, recent closures of media outlets are beginning to suppress the opposition.
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