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Lopez Escote, the article was already approved for publishing by Ultimas Noticias director Eleazar Diaz Rangel, but withdrawn at the last minute.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…