of the Tascón List, but he has also denigrated public workers who fail to support the revolution.12Opposition politicians are not the revolutionary government‘s only targets; independent NGOs, particularly in the human rights field, are impeded by legal and extralegal actions, and threatened by legal reforms that jeopardize their financial survival. After several years of fits and starts in the AN, in December 2010 the lame-duck AN approved the Law for the Defense of Political Sovereignty and National Self-Determination, which explicitly prohibits foreign donations to political parties and political rights NGOs. At least one NGO, Public Space, has been subjected to criminal investigation for receiving international funding; Carlos Correa, a journalist, human rights defender, and director of the group, has faced public criticism on Venezuelan public television,13and was attacked during a demonstration organized by NGOs to protest the December 2010 fast-track passage of laws.14Chavista officials and legislators have on multiple occasions demanded investigations into the finances of human rights, good governance, and other groups not aligned with the government—particularly when they are suspected of receiving funds from the U.S. government. Less political groups are allowed to operate more freely, but their level of influence on policymakers is extremely low. The media has been one of the areas of greatest contention during the Chávez administration. Criticism of the government is widespread in newspapers, but coverage is subject to restrictions under the 2004 Social Responsibility Law (Ley Resorte), which gave the government-friendly National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) significant powers to take action against outlets that are deemed to have transmitted irresponsible speech. Defamation remains criminalized, and journalists have been prosecuted and convicted, though few have actually served jail time in recent years. In 2010, journalist Francisco Peréz was convicted of defaming a mayor in Carabobo state, fined, and prohibited from practicing journalism for almost four years, though the conviction was reversed on appeal.15A December 2010 bill could further limit freedom of expression in electronic media by extending the Ley Resorte‘sstrictures to the
COUNTRIES AT THE CROSSROADS7 internet—including electronic social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as comments made on web forums and blogs. Although internet access has remained generally free following the expropriation of the primary national telephone company (CANTV) in 2007, the government now possesses a powerful tool to potentially affect web access and content, and occasional accusations of suspicious activity have already been leveled.