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Venezuela trials stifling journalistic dissent: media watchdog

[JURIST] Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile] is silencing dissent by prosecuting journalists under questionable circumstances, a US media watchdog group said Tuesday. The Inter American Press Association [advocacy website] is sending an international mission to Venezuela [press release] next week to investigate press freedom, where they will discuss recent notable cases with journalists, local government officials and rights groups. Venezuela Information Minister William Lara cited a wide range of media outlets in Venezuela [JURIST news archive], including many that are critical of the government, to show that Venezuela supports press freedom.

Newspaper director Patricia Poleo was charged [El Universal report] in 2005 with illegally using classified information and documents in connection with the 2004 assassination of national prosecutor Danilo Anderson [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Poleo fled to the US, and the Venezuelan attorney general has announced he will seek her extradition. In another free press case, a slander lawsuit against journalist Napoleon Bravo was dismissed [RWB report] in May. Since winning a 2004 referendum, Chavez has passed two laws that critics say erode press freedom, including the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television [official backgrounder], which authorizes investigations with the aim of punishing broadcast media with a fine equal to one to two percent of their pre-tax annual profits, and the Criminal Code Reform of 2005, which increases criminal punishments for journalistic offenses. AP has more.

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