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Venezuela: committed journalism vs. media aggression

Reporting the news in Venezuela is a complex problem, especially when the country is beset by the harsh conditions of what many analysts are referring to as “total war”.

 

Luis Beatón

 

The dogmatic grounds for this aggression are sternly applied by the United States government, determined to destroy the revolutionary process, initiated by  Hugo Chávez and continued under the recently elected President Nicolás Maduro.

Journalism is talked about and many ask which side – pro or counter-revolutionary – the report favours because both types of news exist. Here, there is no indifference, no half measures, no neutral reporting.

Confronted by the media onslaught, the so-called ‘fake news,’ the manipulation and lies which after constant repetition can appear true, there is a committed brand of journalism that champions popular victories and moreover endures the same shortage in materials as the other side.

Left, centre (if indeed there is one) and right leaning printed newspapers are suffering a paper crisis that cuts across creed and ideology.

But this crisis is also the result, among other things, of the modern doctrine of total war which retired US Army Colonel Max G. Manwaring, a specialist in defining such scenarios, clearly sets out.

The former soldier talks of three stages of conflict in this type of war: a) Internal threat against political stability and sovereignty by national and / or international physical and / or legal entities that enjoy state or non-state international support; b) generation of popular discontent and induced incapacity preventing the government from resolving the causes of discontent; and c) military occupation of the territory, generally disguised as “humanitarian intervention.”

As regards the first stage (internal threat against political stability) Manwaring says three essential features converge: 1) economic destabilization and attack on the currency; 2) coup d’etat; and 3) territorial and political control using criminal organizations.

The first of these – economic destabilization and attack on the currency – undoubtedly does significantly undermine reporting, compromising access to materials, technologies and in general what is needed to carry out the job.

But it should be noted that, externally, Venezuela is the victim of a well-oiled media machine, controlled from Washington and the US Southern Command, that does not lack resources and is involved at all stages of this total war against the Chavez Revolution.

Between 2002 and 2012, NGOs expanded their presence in Latin America. In Venezuela alone, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Foundation for Democracy (NED) invested more than 100 million dollars in order to sponsor opposition groups and create 300 new organizations

Documents leaked by WikiLeaks reveal that USAID handed over some $ 15 million between 2004 and 2006 to 300 ‘civil organizations’ in Venezuela under the heading of human rights and education. Newspaper organisations also figured in this. Many of these organizations still operate in the country and are champions of ‘freedom of expression’ – a freedom some claim is limited.

For example, if you read a page from El Nacional, El Universal or the weekly La Razón, you can see the degree of censorship in publications some consider right wing: their content is anti-government. Slander, fake news and insults abound. But none of them have been closed down.

The same thing is happening in television with Venevisión, Televen and Globovisión, to name three stations as well as the dozens of radio stations that broadcast anti-government propaganda across the country.

In any political system, those in power set the rules of the game. There is always censorship in any country and in any political system, experts on the subject point out.

Incitement to violence should be censored wherever it appears as well as ‘media terrorism,’ which does exist and can occasionally be witnessed. Venezuela is no exception.

But should reporting really be viewed as a danger for colleagues practicing the profession? In Venezuela this is not quite the issue it is in other countries. To touch on one aspect of this topic regarding freedom of expression there are no reports of journalists killed or gone missing.

Across the world a total of 65 professionals in this sector died during 2017 whilst on active duty, according to a report by NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

As regards this, Mexico and Syria are the most dangerous countries in which to carry out the job of a reporter, and this is not necessarily the fault of the government.

According to the Venezuela Press and Society Institute (IPYS), an NGO that emerged here, during August of 2013 and February of 2018, 35 newspapers ceased being circulated throughout the country, although the organisation does not specify the causes, nor does it even discuss whether it might be the result of economic aggression.

The publications that stopped circulating did so because of difficulties in obtaining the paper needed to produce them. “Of this figure, 18 publications stopped circulating permanently and the other 17 suspended circulation for periods,” said IPYS executives.

This same organisation suggests that “there is legal uncertainty surrounding radio and television broadcasting since the government is preventing radio stations and television channels from renewing their licenses unless they change their editorial lines”, although it does not present any evidence regarding this. You have to accept this as the truth.

Venezuelan journalist and analyst Eleazar Díaz Rangel, editor in chief of newspaper Últimas Noticias which boasts the largest circulation in the country, addresses the issue of censorship in Venezuela.

“By censorship this is understood as action taken by government officials to suppress news and opinions in the press. During the dictatorship of Perez Jimenez, he ran a permanent office for these activities. Since 1958 this has been carried out on a more ‘as and when required’ basis” he points out.

“We had it under (President) Rómulo Betancourt in November 1960. The censorship imposed in 1992 by the government of (Carlos Andrés) Pérez who employed characters such as Pedro Pablo Alcántara who served as a censor on some newspapers, may be recalled and people forget this”, he stipulates.

“The Constitution expressly prohibits, even in emergency situations, suspending the right to inform and air opinions,” this doyen of Venezuelan journalism stresses.

“It is difficult to find another Constitution in the world”,Diaz Rangel stressed, “with such a stipulation. The IAPA and all those who speak of attacks on freedom of the press in Venezuela should be invited to substantiate a single item of news that has been suppressed as a result of government meddling since 1999”. (PL)

(Translated by Nigel Conibear – DipTrans IoLET MCIL – nigelconibear@gmail.com) – (Photos: Pixabay)

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