A court in Caracas, Venezuela, dismissed the government's attempt to prosecute journalist Napolean Bravo. In 2004, Mr. Bravo, a critic of President Hugo Chavez, was accused of insulting Venezuela's Supreme Court by saying it was under political control.
In a written statement, Reporters Without Borders, an independent monitoring group, said Mr. Bravo got the court to recognize that he "could not be prosecuted under a law protecting individual public figures because he criticized the supreme court as a whole not any of its members."
Napolean Bravo's case is one of those cited in the latest U.S. State Department report on human rights. The report says that while print and electronic media in Venezuela remain independent, President Hugo Chavez "repeatedly singled out media owners and editors, charging that the media provoked political unrest and accusing them of treason."
In one case, Venezuelan National Guard officers ransacked the offices of the Caracas newspaper Ultimas Noticias and seized photographs. In another, Venezuelan police raided the offices of the newspaper La Razon searching for the name and address of a columnist who used a pseudonym. In Venezuela, the law permits the government to order broadcast media to preempt scheduled programming and transmit the government's message.
Venezuela remains on the International Press Institute's watch list of countries with a growing tendency toward suppression or restriction of press freedom. Reporters without Borders, another independent monitoring group, has expressed similar concerns.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, "In Venezuela, the combination of new laws governing libel and broadcast media content, legal harassment against journalists, and physical intimidation has resulted in limitations on press freedoms and a climate of self-censorship." She says, "While the United States will continue working to advocate for greater global press freedom, all free societies carry the responsibility to press restrictive governments to allow an open press.... Without it," says Secretary of State Rice, "society as a whole suffers."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.