HRDs have been working under restrictive policies for many years: the Maduro administration has continued the work begun by Chávez in restricting civil space and delegitimising HRDs, repeatedly accusing them of undermining the Venezuelan democracy with the alleged collaboration of the United States. HRDs are discredited and criminalised by state-controlled media (television, radio, print media) on a weekly basis.
The authorities have systematically undermined freedom of expression, which has not only affected HRDs and other critical voices, but has also created a more restrictive media environment. Indeed, HRDs who publicly speak out about human rights violations, including at the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, have also been subjected to restrictions in the private sphere, with surveillance of their email and communication being commonplace.
The government has taken advantage of its control over broadcast frequencies to pressure media outlets to self-censor and limit their level of criticism. There have been continuous reports of acts of intimidation and death threats against journalists and media workers, who have also been threatened with legal proceedings. Public officials as well as state controlled media channels and print media have also continued to stigmatise HRDs through persistent campaigns to discredit their work and accuse them of attempting to destabilise the country. These public declarations put HRDs and their organisations at further risk of threats and attacks.