7 Geo. J. Int'l Aff. 25 (2006)
Media Crackdown - Chavez and Censorship

handle is hein.journals/geojaf7 and id is 29 raw text is: Mobilizing Media

Media Crack~down
Chdvez and Censorship
Roger Atwood

In December 2006 Venezuelan President Hugo Chivez will
be seeking reelection in one of the most restrictive legal cli-
mates for press freedom in Latin America.' Laws enacted
since late 2004 by the Venezuelan Congress, where Chivez's
party and its allies hold a solid majority of seats, have sharply
reduced the latitude with which Venezuelan media can report
on political figures in their country and have strengthened
the central government's power to fine or imprison journal-
ists and close down news outlets. The new statutes, with dra-
conian punishments for offenders, run contrary to the trend
throughout Latin America of liberalizing press laws and
widening space for debate and editorial opinion. This arti-
cle will review the new legal restrictions on the media,
describe their effects so far, and offer some predictions as to
their impact on debate in the upcoming presidential cam-
paign and beyond.
One of the new laws' key elements is a reform of the penal
code to fortify so-called insult laws, which bar any potential
criticism of high public officials. Another law dictates content
on television and radio broadcasts. While the new laws appear
aimed at encouraging reporters and opinion writers to
restrain themselves in what they write or broadcast, the legis-
lation also gives authorities wide discretion to punish-if

Roger Atwood was a
Knight International
Press    Fellow     in
Venezuela in 2005. He
is author of StealinglHisto-
g   and    a  Visiting
Researcher at George-
town University's Cen-
ter for Latin American
Studies.

Winter/Spring 2006 [25]

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