Venezuela’s Maduro Accused of Gagging Media to Silence Protesters

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp are being blocked sporadically, according to media reports.

Venezuela
A protest march in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s government has reportedly begun blocking citizens from accessing social media and international television networks, as President Nicolas Maduro struggles to cling on to power amid widening protests by opposition party supporters.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp are all being blocked sporadically, according to Spanish media reports.

The move is likely aimed at containing the protesters who use the social media platforms to disseminate information about their meetings.Twitter is the main mode of communication opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim president in January,  used to stay connected to his supporters.

International media outlets covering the protests have also been silenced by Maduro’s government, with TV channels BBC and CNN blocked for several hours last month as they broadcast images of protests.

Radio Caracas is reportedly broadcasting through its Twitter account after the station was taken off the air last month. The order to clamp down on the country’s oldest radio station came from the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel), according to the country’s Press Workers’ Union (SNTP).

Journalists are also getting caught up in the crossfire. On April 30, photojournalist Julio Colmenárez from the newspaper El Informador was hospitalized after being hit by pellets fired by the police.  Another journalist Isaac González was beaten by Maduro supporters, according to SNTP.

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Reporters Without Borders ranks Venezuela 137th out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index, saying that media in the country is “almost entirely dominated” by the government.

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