- Title: VENEZUELA: Court bans publishing of violent photographs
- Date: 19th August 2010
- Summary: WOMAN WORKING IN NEWSROOM, PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ ON TV SCREEN
- Embargoed: 3rd September 2010 13:00
- Topics: Communications,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9TX3I9QIQXEM5J8IHK1L1R8MV
- Story Text: A Venezuelan court has ordered two opposition newspapers not to print violent images in a measure that it said was aimed at protecting children, but which critics denounced as censorship.
The ruling followed a scandal over the publication of a photograph of corpses piled at a morgue in Caracas, which the government says was part of campaign against President Hugo Chavez's Socialist Party ahead of Sept. 26 legislative polls.
The picture was splashed on the front page of El Nacional newspaper last Friday under a headline about growing insecurity in the South American country.
It was reprinted by another newspaper, Tal Cual, on Monday.
The director of El Nacional said the 30-day ban was due likely to upcoming elections and the government's desperation to prevent feeding into the country's main concern, security.
"What's happening in Venezuela is that personal insecurity is the one thing most felt by Venezuelans, it's one of the factors that is dragging down the government's popularity. There will be parliamentary elections on September 26 and the government is desperately trying to get newspapers not to publish things that jeopardizes them, among those things, personal insecurity," Miguel Otero told Reuters on Wednesday (August 18).
He added: "Having put a 30-day ban on those publications not to publish photographs regarding criminal acts makes it practically evident that they are installing a system of censorship on newspapers because they are desperate over what is happening in the country with personal insecurity for which they do nothing nor are they interested in and it seems that they may be accomplices."
The city morgue receives many people killed by violence or in traffic accidents. The newspapers used the image to show the institution was overwhelmed by the number of bodies.
On Wednesday, El Nacional printed a front page without photos, emblazoned with the word "Censored." Venezuelan media said the order had been extended to cover other newspapers, but officials were not immediately available to comment on that.
"(The print media) should abstain from publishing violent, bloody or grotesque images, whether of crime or not, that in one way or another threaten the moral and psychological state of children," the 12th Tribunal of Caracas said in the ruling late on Tuesday.
Otero told Reuters his paper would appeal the decision and put up a fight.
"We are going to make our decisions, we are going to appeal, we are going to be creative with what we publish but we are going to put up a fight because it is a violation of the liberty of expression," he said.
Venezuela has one of the world's highest violent crime rates, with more than 16,000 murders last year according to calculations by non-governmental groups. The government has not published official murder figures for several years.
Lawlessness ranks as the top concern of voters, and opposition parties are expected to campaign on an anti-crime ticket ahead of next month's parliamentary elections.
Chavez's Socialist Party is likely to retain a reduced majority at the polls, seen as a barometer of support for the government's policies ahead of presidential elections in 2012, when Chavez will seek another term.
International press watchdog Reporters Without Borders said the morgue photograph was shocking and that its use raised questions about the newspaper's "sense of responsibility," even if it was not a publication aimed at young people.
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