A court in Venezuela has sentenced a newspaper editor to four years in prison for defamation after the paper investigated alleged corruption at a major company, the newspaper has said.
Critics denounced the sentence by the court yesterday in the southern state of Bolivar against Correo del Caroni chief David Natera as an attack on press freedom and a form of preventive censorship aimed at discouraging investigative reporting.
The newspaper published a series of investigative articles between May and September 2013 accusing several businessmen linked to the iron ore miner CVG Ferrominera Orinoco of embezzlement, extortion and conspiracy.
Critics jumped on the news of Natera’s sentencing. “Correo del Caroni was found guilty for exercising its editorial independence and contributing to transparency,” the paper’s editor Oscar Murillo tweeted.
This sentence is aimed at intimidating Venezuelan media “to force them to submit to censorship and self-censorship that is unnecessary in a democratic country,” Tinedo Guia, president of the National Journalists’ Union, told reporters.
“Any media receiving information tomorrow about a case of corruption will think about Correo del Caroni’s example and probably stop the investigation or publication of the information,” said Carlos Correa, director of Public Space, a freedom of expression NGO. He called the case a “mechanism of preventive censorship.”
Although Natera will remain free pending an appeal, he is barred from leaving the country and must appear in court every 30 days.
Venezuelan socialist President Nicolas Maduro is under immense pressure from an economic crisis and an opposition that has vowed to pursue all means to force him from power since it won control of parliament in December. Last month, legislators debated reforms to the country’s strict media law.