In Chavez's Crime-Torn Venezuela, No More Front-Page Photos of Bullet-Riddled Corpses

Last year, more than 16,000 Venezuelans were felled by bullets, bombs, knives and other violent instruments of crime -- but don't look for their grisly death photos on the front pages in Caracas. A Venezuelan court yesterday prohibited newspapers from running shots depicting "crime and violence" for the next month.

Why, you ask? No, it's not because vital parliamentary elections next month could hinge on voters' views of violent crime. It's for the children!

So says Venezuela's Public Defender Gabriella del Mar Ramirez Perez, in an interview with Reuters.

"We reaffirm that the exercise of the constitutional right to freedom of expression and information ... in no case justify violating the rights of children and adolescents," she says.

Others aren't so sure. Reporters Without Borders, for one, slammed the order.

"This court order is much too broad and imprecise. What are the exact criteria for deciding if something affects the psychological well-being of children or adolescents?" the group says in a statement.

The court order grew out of a controversy over a photo published last week by El Nacional, which showed a city morgue overwhelmed with bodies.

Chavez's government charged that the photo was misleading, and that any problems at the morgue have since been addressed. The paper's editor tells Reuters the shocking image was meant to spur change.

"The editorial aim of the photo was to shock people so that in some way they react to the situation, since the government does nothing," Miguel Henrique Otero says.

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