update : January 14 - 2002
On January 11, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (ICHR) officially demanded that the Venezuelan Government "ensure the protection needed for El Nacional’s employees", and also asked that an enquiry be opened in order to find and punish the authors of last week’s attack against the newspaper. The ICHR gave the government a seven day deadline to institute these measures. President Chavez reacted to this demand by expressing his "profound sadness" at the ICHR’s commitment to defend both "lies and blackmail", referring to El Nacional’s policy. The President also stated that demonstrations against the media will continue while the media continue to "outrage the Venezuelan people". On 9 January, President Chavez explained that the previous demonstration against El Nacional "had not been organised (by the government), but (came from) the people’s heart". A parade of President Chavez’s supporters marched through Caracas on 13 January and stopped in front of the offices of every news medium considered unfavourable to the government and called on them to "tell the truth".
January 8 - 2002
In a letter to President Hugo Chávez, RSF protested his supporters’ laying siege to the offices of the daily "El Nacional". The attack took place twenty-four hours after the president criticised the daily. "The president’s verbal threats are now being acted upon," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard noted with concern. "This event signals a deterioration in Venezuela’s press freedom situation," he underlined. RSF urged President Chávez to condemn the attack and call his supporters to order. Ménard demanded that an investigation be launched into the incident. Finally, the organisation also asked the president to end his virulent attacks on the press, which have led to its being the target of attacks by the public. During the Venezuelan president’s visit to Paris, France in October 2001, RSF denounced his policy of intimidating the media.
According to information collected by RSF, at least 100 of President Chávez’s supporters laid siege to the offices of the daily "El Nacional" for several hours on 7 January 2002. The activists chanted hostile slogans against the newspaper and threw various objects at the office’s front wall. During this time, the journalists present were also prevented from leaving the daily’s offices. The deployment of anti-riot police was necessary to disperse the activists, who claimed to be members of a "Bolivarian circle", a popular organisation that supports Chávez. The previous evening, the president had harshly denounced the daily’s editorial line. He accused the newspaper of publishing lies about his government’s policies.
Chávez has been making regular virulent statements against media that criticise his administration ever since he took office in February 1999. His main forum is his Sunday radio programme "Aló Presidente", which is broadcast on the public station Radio Nacional de Venezuela. He has often accused newspaper directors of being "enemies of the people" or "manipulating information", before promising them "lead." In May 2000, four journalists were assaulted by supporters of President Chávez during a demonstration in his support.