Earlier this month, Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term as Venezuela's president.

The election that got him there had been widely condemned as rigged and opposition voices were mostly absent from the airwaves.

"They broadcast the official line that tries to justify the existence of parallel reality to the one that Venezuelans are living on a daily basis," says Omar Lugo, director of El Estimulo. "The contents are sweetened in order to avoid contradicting official reports. That's the reality of journalism in Venezuela. The government exercises extreme control, especially in broadcast media."

The case against Maduro - and his treatment of the media - is compelling. His critics say that since he first took office in 2013, almost 100 radio and TV stations have been censored or shut down, along with 33 newspapers. Another 50 journalists have been prosecuted.

"Venezuela has a serious problem when it comes to getting certain supplies, like paper - which is not made here and which we cannot afford to import. So of course the media are going to suffer. Media are still in circulation - but they have moved online that's just a global reality. So it's unfair to suggest that media outlets are being closed down. They are still in there, but they're on the internet," says Maria Alejandra Diaz, Human Rights Commission of Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly.

But according to Lugo, online journalism isn't that widespread. "Venezuela has the worst internet in Latin America. It's very difficult for people to use their phones in public like in the US and Europe - there is too much crime. Also, websites suffer constant attacks. We suspect that it's people from the government."

We've been following the media story in Venezuela for more than a decade.

When Maduro's predecessor and mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, came to power in 1999, he pledged to confront the right-wing media outlets that dominated political discourse at the time - to democratise the media and to give voice to the country's poor.

But what began as a government-enforced market correction, a defensible response to a media sector that was out of control, has since grown into a crackdown.

"When Chavez was in office, he enjoyed popular support most of the time so repression wasn't so necessary. By the time Maduro came to power, sympathy towards the government slid significantly due to the economic situation, the social situation and so repression against the media increased," says Xabier Coscojuela, director, Tal Cual.

Venezuelans now suffer under chronic shortages - not just of food and medicine - of information. And there are signs aplenty that Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution has lost its way.

"'We are the ones telling the truth' - that's what the government says. But for the system to work, we need media outlets that have no relationship to the government so that they can tell us what's really happening," says Bernardino Herrera, from the Central University of Caracas. "A good government needs to be able to take criticism from its citizens. Their problem is that the reality is very obvious. And there is no way to hide it any longer."

Source: Al Jazeera