Journalism under siege

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What Mr. Guisandes and the hegemony really want…

What’s new with the communicational hegemony these days?

Well, a radio station was shut down in Barinas, and a radio show was suspended in Caracas. Journalists are being fired for having opinions, newsroom personnel are publicly disputing their paper’s new editorial line, and lots of money is being thrown at everyday cadenas.

So, the usual. Yet ,the biggest change to what’s left of our media landscape could be coming soon, thanks to a new proposal that would change journalism itself, or at least how it is defined in Venezuela.

Meet Gaston Guisandes, former presidential candidate (in 1988), and editor of the pro-government newspaper Qué Pasa of Maracaibo.

He introduced a proposal for a brand new Social Communication Law to the National Assembly, which in his view would cover “…communicators that don’t have a (legal) instrument”. Yet, he forgot to mention that he’s a constant present in State media like ViVe TV as a political analyst, usually supporting the government’s view of all things.

What does this proposal bring to the table?  Well, it would mean the “de-professionalization” of journalism, like the elimination of the required college degree. In principle, that’s not a bad idea. But this proposal uses that as a excuse to finish the National Journalists’ Association (CNP), as it creates a new Social Communicators College of its own.

The proposal also puts obstacles for reporters, like the idea that all the subjects have to be informed in advance in order to avoid “irrelevant situations” or the prohibition of publishing any news that according to the text “…does not have anything to do with what is been reported”. Make no mistake. This is censorship, pure and simple.

Last but not least, it has lots of vague sanctions for “legal, ethical or moral failures”, which could end with the person barred of doing any “social communication” job.

Guisandes has defended his proposal, saying it won’t destroy the CNP. But the current head of this organization Tinedo Guia has called it “an agression against free speech”. He questions the way this proposal was handled too.

The proposal is just an early draft (17 articles), but the pro-government majority in the AN Media Commission has been pushing for changing the Journalism Law in recent years. Weeks before Guisandes delivered it, discussion on the so-called “Popular Communication Law” was reactivated for discussion. This legislation would cover all those “alternative” media outlets (small community papers, radio & TV stations) that even if they’re not officially part of the State Media System (SIBCI) are financed and guided by the Communication and Information Ministry (MinCI).

As our public sphere faces its darkest hour and Venezuelans are now getting less and less informed about the issues that matter to them, the government pushes to transform all journalists into this… One voice, one message.

P.S. This happens to be my 500th post in Caracas Chronicles after almost two and a half years.