Web-based Venezolanos por la Información TV station and legendary Maracaibo newspaper Panorama were the first attacks of a new campaign by the Nicolas Maduro regime against independent media in Venezuela, over the weekend.
Sunday night, VPI TV 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 two facilities in Caracas arguing a tax beef.
Seniat also closed for five days the office of the centenary newspaper Panorama. The Seniat argued also a tax case.
VPI was also visited by the controlled communications institution 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,” wrote VPI reporter Antonieta La Rocca in her Twitter account, @NenaLaRocca Sunday night.
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 Tal Cual press worker, Victor Amaya.
Analysts say VPI is joining the long list of media attacked by the regime, being punished for its coverage of 2017 repression, now that Maduro has been since International Criminal Court investigation since 2018 for those and other crimes against humanity.
Spanish journalist Fabiola Mouzo Carranza wrote: “Once again, a screen in Venezuela goes black because the powers-that-be do not 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.”
In its statement, VPItv warned that the Conatel measure puts at risk the job stability of more than 100 workers spread throughout the country. The international media, based in Miami, assured its working on recover the seized equipment.
True to form, the newspaper Panorama denounced that the regime is shutting down media just as COVID-19 cases are peaking, seemingly signaling the arrival of the third wave of contagion.
“As a media outlet, we are called to fulfill with the responsibility 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 in the face of COVID-19 pandemic,” Panorama said.
By Carlos Camacho. Additional reporting by El Pitazo correspondents in Caracas and Maracaibo.