October 07, 2008
CARACAS -- Venezuela on Tuesday dismissed concerns by international press freedom groups that private news media in the country are facing harassment and intimidation.
The Information Ministry said in a statement that Venezuelan newspaper owners falsely claimed there have been setbacks to free speech during an Inter American Press Association meeting in Madrid this week.
The ministry called the allegations ``media terrorism against Venezuela.''
Information Minister Andres Izarra said some private media outlets are the greatest violators of free expression, according to the state news agency. He named Venezuelan newspapers El Nacional and El Universal, and opposition-aligned television station Globovisión, saying they are ``at the service of the United States.''
Those allegations were just the sort of finger-pointing protested by another press freedom group, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, in an open letter to President Hugo Chávez published Monday.
''We urge you to show greater tolerance toward criticism in the press and to halt unfounded accusations aimed at discrediting the news media,'' CPJ said in the letter. ``Unfounded government accusations of media coup-plotting have compounded the problem, fostering a climate of fear among journalists.''
The group expressed alarm over an incident last month when a Venezuelan journalist was shot and wounded under circumstances that remain unclear. It also noted Globovision's building was recently attacked with tear gas canisters.
Izarra turned those allegations around, saying anti-government media owners are linked to ''neofascist'' students from the University of Zulia who protested outside the newspaper Panorama in Maracaibo on Monday.