Reporters Without Borders today condemned the “news and publicity ban” which the mayor of the eastern city of Maturín, Numa Rojas, imposed on the two leading regional dailies and two radio stations on 12 November.
“Denying media access to public information and punishing them financially by depriving them of advertising revenue is censorship, pure and simple,” the press freedom organisation said. “If the mayor wants to dispute what is said about him in the press, he can either bring a lawsuit or demand the right of response.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “We urge communication and information minister Willian Lara to disown the mayor’s methods and to consider mediating between him and the media concerned.”
Accusing the two newspapers - La Prensa and El Périodico de Monagas - and two radio stations - Órbita and 93.5 La Gran FM - of waging a campaign against him, Mayor Rojas announced on 12 November that they would henceforth be deprived of local government advertising and their reporters would be banned from all municipal buildings.
Rojas has been at loggerheads with the local media for six months, above all because they have been covering the problems of his partner, the chairperson of the local Bolivarian House of the Woman, who has been charged with irregularities in its management. Referring to the media on 9 July, Rojas publicly said: “They are surprised that people burn newspapers and yet they are constantly causing us harm.”
A member of President Hugo Chávez’s party, the Movimento Va República (MVR), Rojas has also been called to task by members of his party over his own management. The ban imposed on the four media also apply to two MVR municipal councillors. Rojas has asked one of the MVR’s national leaders to put a stop to the “media war” against him.