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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

VenEconomy: Censorship, Self-Censorship, and Persecution in Venezuela

From the Editors of VenEconomy

Several government measures have been announced in just these past two weeks that are stripping the audiovisual media down to the bone, leaving them bereft of brain, muscle, and nerves.

One of those measures was the opening of another investigation against Globovisión. This time involving the program Buenas Noches, presented by Francisco (Kiko) Bautista, Carla Angola, and Ronald Carreño, for allegedly having issued a call to “a coup d’état, assassination, the committing of crimes, and promoting disturbances,” allegedly made by a viewer via an SMS text message that was shown on ticker tape during the program. Yet another investigation was opened following a complaint filed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office on September 18 by the National Socialist Women’s Front on the grounds that Buenas Noches broadcast a video that allegedly disrespects “the image of women.”

Another of the latest assaults on the media is Conatel’s threat to close down 29 radio stations, in addition to the 34 that were taken off the air a month ago. This attack by Conatel against the country’s radio stations, which includes investigations in to 200 more, had prompted some radio circuits to “lighten” their editorial line, moderate some programs, and take off the air the most critical programs and that were causing the regime’s top officials most embarrassment.

Among the most notable sacrificial lambs – and one of the most left-handed measures of self-censorship in Venezuela to date – is Unión Radio Circuit’s program Mesa de Análisis. Since it first went on the air, this program had been presented by Marta Colomina, the professor of generations of Venezuelan journalists. Now those duties have been divided up among different anchorpersons at the radio stations, among them the journalist Mari Pili Hernández, a fierce Chavista militant, and, as a result, Marta Colomina’s involvement has been reduced to presenting the program on Wednesdays only. This, to say the least, shows a lack of respect not only towards Colomina, but also towards the listeners for whom the image of the program was intimately linked from the beginning with Colomina. The other person to be sacrificed was Nelson Bocaranda, whose Runrunes (Murmurings) have been taken off the air by Circuito Onda and can now only be followed by Twitter and his usual column in El Universal.

In addition, the government has announced that the Ministry of Communication and Information will allocate three and a half hours of independent production programming out of the five and a half hours that radio stations have to broadcast, according to the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television (better known as the Gag Law). This discretionary measure affects both independent domestic producers and radio listeners, who from now on will be subjected to even more ideological bombardment from Chávez’s socialism.

And as though that were not enough, this Tuesday, in a public meeting, CONATEL announced that among the measures it plans to take are a series of new obligations for cable television operators, among them the broadcasting of the presidential nationwide networked broadcasts.

At the time of going to press, it was still not clear what the scope of the measures the government has in mind will be, however, it is already known that it is certain that it will lead to the strengthening/reinforcing of the Castro-Chavista communism that is being put in place in Venezuela.

Besides these advances, this totalitarian system being imposed on Venezuela added two more journalists to its list of exiles in the past week: Globovisión’s correspondent in Táchira state, Freddy Machado, who has requested asylum in the United States on the grounds of judicial persecution after having revealed the alleged falsification of the academic credentials of a judge in the region in 2006; and Rafael Poleo, who has said he will stay out of the country while he is being charged this Thursday, September 24, for statements he made on the program Aló Ciudadano in October 2008, when he warned that Chávez could have an end similar to that of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

VenEconomy has been a leading provider of consultancy on financial, political and economic data in Venezuela since 1982.

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