Venezuela's Supreme Court on Wednesday banned the media from publishing videos of lynchings, saying they create "anxiety and uncertainty" in a country ravaged by violent crime and an economic crisis.
The OPEC nation's society is in upheaval amid triple-digit inflation, a deep recession, and brutal shortages of food and medicine. Mob beatings and lynchings have increased in the country, which is already one of the world's most violent, as Venezuelans have grown increasingly angry at frequent thefts, hold-ups, and homicides.
Gory videos of mob justice or photos of bloody corpses sometimes make the rounds on social media. President Nicolás Maduro's socialist government says the footage is part of a larger plan to sully his administration and stoke unrest in an attempt to unseat him.
In its statement, the top court, which Venezuela's opposition accuses of being subservient to Maduro, singled out two digital outlets, but said the ban applies to all media.
"The Supreme Court has ordered a ban on digital outlets 'La Patilla' and 'Caraota Digital' from publishing videos of lynchings, via their internet sites, as well as their social media accounts," the top judicial body said in a statement, while noting the broader ban.
"Media have the right to journalistically express a news event…but these rights should not create anxiety and uncertainty in the population," the court said.
There is no official public data on lynchings in Venezuela. Leading non-governmental organizations say the phenomenon is on the rise, fueled by Venezuelans' sense of helplessness in the face of crime. Courts are slow, judges are sometimes on the take, and criminals are frequently released right after arrest, according to non-profit groups.
Venezuela's opposition, which is trying to remove Maduro via a recall referendum, scoffed at the ban.
"Lynchings don't happen because of media, as the Supreme Court assumes, but rather because of impunity and the judicial system's inefficiency," tweeted Luis Izquiel, a lawyer and the opposition coalition's security coordinator.
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