By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS – Web-based Venezolanos por la Informacion TV station and legendary Maracaibo newspaper Panorama were the first victims of a new campaign by the Nicolás Maduro regime against independent media in Venezuela over the weekend.
VPItv shut down for good after Maduro regime impounded all of its gear, including TV cameras, while Panorama newspaper in Zulia was forced to shut down its offices for five days after also being visited by the regime’s Seniat tax authority.
On Sunday night, VPItv said it is closing down temporarily, putting 100 employees out of work after the Seniat tax authority that answers to the regime seized all of the equipment at the station’s two facilities in Caracas arguing a tax beef. Seniat shut down the offices and almost all of the facilities of Panorama for five days, arguing a similar tax case.
VPItv was also visited by telecoms watchdog Conatel, who also forbade it from operating further.
“Yes, today we have to report the news that we always feared and that we would never have wanted to give. VPItv ceases its operations in #Venezuela – temporarily – after the measure ordered by #Conatel,” VPItv reporter Antonieta La Rocca wrote on Sunday night in her Twitter account, @NenaLaRocca.
Tellingly, the attacks come only days after two Maduro-connected political figures, Jose Brito and Leocenys Garcia, publicly threatened and harassed non-regime journalists including TalCual’s Victor Amaya.
Also, pro-government media outlets such as the El Universal newspaper and the Globovision TV station (owned by US sanctioned and wanted businessman Raul Gorrin) ran last week a piece accusing several other media outlets such as Efecto Cocuyo, El Pitazo and TalCual of accepting funding form foreign governments, aid agencies and media organizations and journalistic guilds. El Pitazo’s director, award-winning journalist Cesar Batiz, reminded the regime that accepting aid was not yet a crime.
Analysts say VPItv is joining the long list of media attacked by the regime, being punished for its coverage of 2017 repression, now that Maduro has been under International Criminal Court investigation since 2018 for those and other crimes against humanity.
Spanish journalist Fabiola Mouzo Carranza wrote: “It is repeated. Once again, a screen in Venezuela goes black because the powers-that-be don’t like the truth. VPI made history in the 2017 protests with its live coverage, which was not matched by any TV channel. I am proudly part of that history. Strengthen the team!”
In its statement, VPItv warned that Conatel’s measure puts at risk the job stability of more than 100 workers spread throughout the country. The international media, with headquarters in Miami, assured that it is working on recovering its seized equipment in order to resume operations in Venezuela soon.
True to form, contentious Panorama denounced that the regime is shutting down media just as COVID-19 cases are peaking, seemingly signaling the arrival of a third wave of contagion.
“There is the role that as a media outlet we are called to fulfill with responsibility, in the face of the COVID-19 and quarantine to inform the community in a precise way, as the UN demands, about the prevention and biosecurity measures to keep the health of the population safe,” Panorama said.