From the Editors of VenEconomy
With the midst of tsunami of information unleashed by the institutional crisis in Honduras, the Chávez administration’s latest accelerated attack on the media has gone practically unnoticed. Given the events and announcements that have been occurring since last week, there is no doubt that Chávez and his executive band are getting ready to deliver freedom of expression in Venezuela a knockout blow.
The first sign that that is the way things are going is the debate in the National Assembly of a Journalism Bill, which, among other arbitrary rules, proposes eliminating the confidentiality of sources, which is essential for freely exercising journalism in times when fear has permeated the very pores of every Venezuelan.
Another sign is the revoking of the concessions of some 285 radio and television stations announced on July 3 by Diosdado Cabello in his capacity as the head of the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL). Besides that, these media are apparently to be penalized with the seizure of their broadcasting equipping and a ban on operating in the sector for five years. Conatel’s justification for the sanction is that the media whose concessions are being revoked did not comply with Conatel’s requirement that they update their data issued at the beginning of June. According to VenEconomy’s sources, the procedure for updating data conducted by Conatel was apparently full of irregularities and red tape and plagued with discrimination and a lack of transparency.
Some analysts believe that the Executive’s ultimate objective is to take off the air those stations that do not sympathize with Chávez’s policies in order to impose “community” stations tailored to the communism being implemented in Venezuela.
Recently, the free press has also received a fair dose of the harassment and aggression that characterizes its relations with the government. This time it was the turn of three regional newspapers: a) El Carabobeño and NotiTarde (Valencia), which were attacked by Chavismo sympathizers commanded by the mayors of Valencia and Puerto Cabello in reprisal for the coverage they had been giving the situation in Honduras; and b) El Aragüeño (Maracay), which was raided this Monday by the Disip on the pretext of an investigation that was being conducted into the Sindoni Group.
The last of these incidents was something that escapes all logic of anyone who believes in justice and freedom: the procedures against the NGOs Asoesfuerzo and Cedice Libertad for having prepared six micros for television in defense of private property when they have done nothing that is illegal, and also against Globovisión and other media for having broadcast them.
But it seems that the government has been upset by the message conveyed by these micros, which runs counter to its unconstitutional “Social Property” Bill that its National Assembly plans to pass to a man.
With this measure, CONATEL seeks to impose prior censorship. This practice is tacitly forbidden in Venezuela’s Constitution, so violated and sullied by the Chávez administration, and also by the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, which was the legal justification used for applying the sanction.
Clearly, in the times of Chávez, as always happens in the times of despotism, in the government, fear of debating values and human rights holds sway.VenEconomy has been a leading provider of consultancy on financial, political and economic data in Venezuela since 1982.
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