Censorship and Rebellion at Cadena Capriles

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    “Journalism comes first”, Cadena Capriles’ ralling cry

    Cadena Capriles, the largest newspaper group in Venezuela is in turmoil after a special report on the Altamira Square protests was cut from the Sunday edition of its flagship newspaper, Ultimas Noticias. The article titled “What’s behind the guarimbas?” by veteran journalist (and friend-of-the-blog) Laura Weffer can be read here in Spanish. If you’re interested in downloading it in print form, here it is.

    According to Weffer’s colleague and UN’s political correspondent Odell Lopez Escote, the article was already approved for publishing by Ultimas Noticias director Eleazar Diaz Rangel, but withdrawn at the last minute.

    As a consequence of this, the head of Cadena Capriles’ Investigations Unit Tamoa Calzadilla resigned her post in protest. Inmediately, many journalists put signs in their cubicles reading El periodismo primero (Journalism comes first) and held an extraordinary assembly. More actions of protest are expected in the next few days in response for they consider a blatant case of censorship by CC’s new leadership.

    For a long time, Ultimas Noticias had played a unique role in the Venezuelan public sphere. Although its editor was clearly chavista, the paper came closer than any other publication in the country to the kind of Neutral point of view that readers in the U.S. take for granted. Uniquely, it devoted significant resources to investigative journalism. And as a tabloid famous for its folksy headlines, it had a mass audience, reputedly the largest of any paper in the country.

    That’s all over now. Since its sale last year to shadowy, unnamed, presumably boli-plugged-in investors, Cadena Capriles has made several decisions clearly aimed to please the government. Back in November, the director of financial newspaper El Mundo Economia y Negocios Omar Lugo was fired after publishing official BCV data of the country’s reserves. Previously, he was warned to “behave” and change the paper’s content.

    These events come after the arrival of a new chairman to Cadena Capriles three weeks ago: former Anzoategui State Governor (2000-2004) and multiple time talanquera-jumper David De Lima.

    De Lima played a major part back in the 2012 presidential campaign, when he denounced an alleged “hidden MUD paquetazo” weeks before the election. Days ago, De Lima participated in one of the many “peace conferences” held by the government. Díaz Rangel has also supported the official line of “a media campaign against Venezuela”.

    Last week, Nicolás Maduro accused Últimas Noticias of “lying”. Was the censorship of Weffer’s just-the-facts ma’am report the response of HegemonCorp. (the term I’m trying to coin for communicational hegemony’s private arm) to his criticisms? Will this case become a new element of the overwhelming case debunking the myth of free speech in Venezuela? Stay tuned…

    1 COMMENT

    1. Ok, what abourt Tal Cual? Don’t you find it neutral? No mention here of the tiny giant that could? Why else the super powerful Diosdado would even bother with it?

      • Tal Cual is an interesting case: It’s not the most popular newspaper, but it has a limited margin of influence inside our public sphere. Obviously, Diosdado’s suit is in the bottom an attack on the paper itself.

        In the end, I agree with Quico. TalCual wasn’t neutral in the first place.

        • Why do newspapers have to be neutral ?? why cant they honestly cater to those that have a particular view of things provided all forms of opinion can have their voices heard in a newspaper of their choice ?? Sometimes there is no neutral stance , someone is wrong and someone else is right , does that mean that papers have to falsify their views to accommodate views they see as false. isnt that dishonest ??

          The important thing is that in exposing their peculiar view of things they dont falsify facts even if their interpretation isnt everyones!!

          What I see as wrong is the regimes policy of silencing all media reports from oppo or independent papers that dont sing their praises or allow some impartial critical scrutiny of their not always sterling performance !

          • I remember reading that newspapers only tried to become “neutral” with the advent of advertising. Before advertising, each publication catered to its subscribers. With advertising, publications started to try to avoid offending the advertisers and the advertisers’ customers!

          • No reason Newspapers should be neutral as a general principle. In a public sphere like ours, though, marked by the strong tendency to excuse and even cheer on misinformation spread for partisan purposes, we badly needed a voice like the old UN.

    2. Kudos kudos kudos to those journalists!

      I think we cannot expect a private newspaper to be “neutral”, but we can expect it to be (more or less) professional. In Germany I can think of Süddeutsche Zeitung on the centre left and Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung on the right, among a zillion others. Germans (and others around) know what stance to expect. But they also expect some level of ethics, the capacity of those papers to put forward the opponents’ position, even if they clearly have a certain editorial stance.

      What Venezuelans would find amazing: in virtually all Germanic countries here, in Britain (which is a sort of mix case) is expected to be as neutral as possible (for internal affairs). That is also the case to a lesser extent in France and to an even lesser extent in Spain .

      I have often thought it would be great to select a part of German public TV news and put subtitles for the Venezuelan audience. Venezuelans would find it amazing to see how German journalists of the public TV grill their own chancellor or ministers…in such a way that even I am sorry – for a second- with Merkel (and not a Merkel fan at all).

    3. From the article I will highlight a very important line that we, as opposition, have not been able to communicate with Chavismo:

      Un GNB joven cuenta: “Mi mamá, del Zulia, tiene que calarse la misma cola que la que hacen estos chamos, para comprar cualquier pote de aceite. Yo creo que ellos tienen razón, pero a veces se pasan”. Se arregla el chaleco antibalas. Mañana será otro día

      I am not a communication specialist or a marketing expert but the our message since 1998 has been directed to the opposition and not to the chavista which isolated our way of finding a solution. The society remains as divided as Chavez wanted due to the lack of communication.
      We do not understand each other and we don’t want to, that’s our main problem as a society and the key to a future successful nation.

    4. There is no agreement across the political spectrum about basic facts affecting daily life in Venezuela. That is a dangerous situation and a product of media control and censorship. This regime is destroying the foundation for dialogue it purports to support. Kudos to these journalists who want to do their jobs…very few are left…

    5. OT:

      Nazional Assembly votes to impugn Maria Corina Machado’s parliamentary immunity.

      Diosdado Cabello moved to interrupt today’s session and to take the documents to the Attorney General’s office, which he and the pro gov assembly folks did right away.

      By mere coincidence, Maria Corina was to speak this Friday at the OAS courtesy of Panama.

    6. The greatest accomplishments of Chavismo, are censorship, indoctrination, division and hatred among Venezuelans. I am hoping Maria Corina will make it to the OAS.

      • For what I have heard (off-the-record), the reason behind UN’s leadership decision was that the article didn’t openly condemn the opposition “guarimberos”.

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