Students and opponents have recently gathered at the offices of the state-owned Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), to protest against the broadcaster’s conduct.

On Friday, a group of students led by Rafaela Requenses, president of the Federation of University Centers of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), took it to the streets alongside members of the opposition, to protest censorship at the country’s public television service.

Media should report “what is happening in the country” but “they are not doing it,” said Requenses. She and the group of students accused the broadcaster of being “the government’s channel”.

According to Requenses, this was made particularly evident when a report broadcasted by VTV blamed the opposition for a young man’s death during the protests that have shaken Venezuela for the past few months. However, it later appeared that the incident took place because of a gas cartridge fired by the National Guard (GNB). Nonetheless, VTV never apologised or rectified its report.

The group of students were later admitted inside the TV station headquarters to discuss their qualms with the Minister of Communication and Information, Ernesto Villegas. The Minister argued that the country’s broadcasters operate with journalists who carry out accurate analysis, and their aim is to cover what is happening in Venezuela without taking sides.

Our interest is the truth, we are not for impunity, on the contrary,” said Villegas.

We have done an investigation that has allowed us to approach the circumstance of time, mode, and place in which a quantity of Venezuelans died,” he added. According to their account, he said, 76 people died, contrary to the report of the prosecutor’s office, who accounted for 62 deaths.

The current protests, which began in February, were further fuelled in March by a Supreme Court decision to remove the powers of the opposition-led assembly, further breaching Venezuela’s already fragile democracy.

The removal of powers have exacerbated the critical situation faced by the country, which suffers from an extremely high inflation rate, scarce supplies and the limited affordability of food and basic goods, among other crucial social, political and economic issues.

Maduro also proposed to reformulate the country’s constitution, fuelling the street violence and political unrest that currently plagues the country. Up until now, no agreement has been reached between the government and the opposition.

Venezuela ranks 137 out of 180 in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, amidst accusation of silencing media outlets and Maduro’s “media war” against the news outlets who criticise him and his administration. The government exerts tight control on local and foreign media too, and often expels foreign journalists. The climate in which media professionals carry out their work is often hostile.

Venezolana de Televisión is widely labelled as a public broadcaster. However, the company has been owned and funded by the State since 1974.

Header image: Citizens on a peaceful march in February 2017, in the vicinity of the Palace of Justice, Maracaibo. Credits: María Alejandra Mora (SoyMAM)/Creative Commons