Notitarde: Censorship in the 21st Century

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    Notitarde’s new owner, José Rodríguez Álvarez

    After days of rumours, it was finally confirmed that Notitarde, one of Valencia’s main newspapers (the other one being El Carabobeño) was sold by its largest shareholder Ricardo Degwitz to Spanish businessman José Rodríguez Álvarez, the owner of the Hesperia WTC Hotel, one of the biggest in the city.

    Degwitz made the announcement to the paper’s staff on Wednesday, in which he also informed that its editor Lauretzi Odriozola Echegaray will leave his post after 25 years. The new owner introduced himself and promised to make Notitarde “…the country’s biggest newspaper.”

    But Mr. Rodríguez Álvarez made a unusual admission as well: he has spoken previously with the central government regarding the never-ending issue of access to newsprint and said the following:

    Maybe you’re asking yourselves how we will get the newsprint if it has become so difficult to get in recent years. Well, the answer is clear, I sat down with the government and asked them if I will get newsprint in the case I bought Notitarde and they said yes. They only asked for plurality, and plurality doesn’t mean partiality.”

    It’s too early to tell if Notitarde will become Valencia’s branch of HegemonCorp., but after hearing the same promises with El Universal and seeing the opposite results months later, it’s hard not to be skeptical. And don’t take it from me, just take a look to what El Universal’s workers are currently saying about the paper’s latest definition of “plurality”.

    This piece of news comes days after fellow CC blogger Carlos Rangel sent me this recent article of Moises Naim (co-written with Philip Bennett) which is aptly titled “21st Century Censorship”. It presents several cases of what they call “new censorship” and describes the Venezuela case in detail, including the mysterious rise of HegemonCorp.:

    Recently, as a political and economic crisis has deepened, the state and its allies appear to have unveiled a new weapon: quieting critical reporting through the shadowy purchase of some of the private media companies most vexing to the government.

    At first, the deals looked similar to the changing of the guard that is happening at old-line media institutions around the world. They have involved Venezuela’s best-selling but financially troubled newspaper, Ultimas Noticias, and its oldest daily, El Universal. But with time the sales seem less the result of market disruption, and more like political meddling using government-friendly buyers, dark money, and a web of foreign companies, some of them created overnight in order to conceal the identities of the new owners.

    The legal strategies used in the acquisitions make them hard to trace and evaluate. No evidence of a direct connection to government funds has surfaced. But the highly irregular structure of the deals, followed by changes in the editorial lines of the publications, have convinced journalists that their papers have lost their independence.”

    Bennett and Naim also treat the newsprint conundrum that those papers neither involved with the State Media System (SIBCI) or HegemonCorp. are facing to obtain the basic element to keep publishing. CPJ’s John Otis went to Ciudad Guayana and spent some time at Correo del Caroni, which has been forced to cut publishing from seven to five days and reduce its edition to just eight pages. But Correo’s editor Oscar Murillo insists they will go forward.

    Sadly, Venezuela has become a world reference on censorship and control of free speech, but that doesn’t mean they will use sophisticated methods all the time. Sometimes, they will stick to traditional public threats against journalists, like the recent case of freelance journalist (and Al-Jazzera correspondent) Mónica Villamizar, who was forced to leave the country after Diosdado Cabello accused her of being a “CIA agent” in his weekly TV show.

    Villamizar strongly denied Cabello’s claims in a written statement and promises to return in order to keep reporting.

    1 COMMENT

    1. So the government openly says it needs a specific political line, “plurality”, in order to deliver newsprint? It’s not good enough to say that “I’ll run my paper the way I think best?”

    2. This operation, HegemonCorp, is very complex, sophisticated.

      Who masterminds it? I mean, they put the cabbages in the visible spots (such as the minister for queues or whatever, the electric arsehole, the bloody head of the government, and so on and so forth), so who is behind the throne, doing the difficult stuff?

      Who is the brain keeping this dictatorship going?

      In science there are two types of papers: descriptive, you basically show and tell, and mechanistic, which is the hard-core of science: demonstrating cause and effect, mechanism of action.

      If I was a journalist in Venezuela I would seriously consider how to reveal mechanism here. Because I can’t just believe Maduro and Cabello are leading this thing. That is impossible.

      • Alejo,

        Maduro y Cabello are only very sophisticated puppets.

        If you want to describe mechanism, look no further to puppet wires and talking points (and $$$ wages)

        all the others you mention, second lass puppets too.
        For years the Occupation has promoted utterly incompetent, corruptible and resented people to all leading positions in all public institutions, this mechanisms works by using the resources of the host nation (Venezuela) to bribe and corrupt these talking heads, to allow the parasite to skim even larger sums of resources…

        One day it will be all but an empty cadaver, and these clowns/ puppets will run away or face street violence.
        The next day everyone will say, me chavista! never….

    3. We all know that for the regime, “plurality” means “only my bullshit propaganda and testicle-pulling”
      The same as “patria”, it actually means “poverty, scarcity, corruption, crime, destruction, death and mocking the people’s suffering.”

    4. I agree with Alejo, for many years I have said that there is no way the government with its cumulative 3 IQ points is pulling the strings. Anyone who believes that Chavez, Maduro, Cabello, or anyone else in this regime is running the show is waaaaay too generous

    5. There are no pupeteers. This is just a new business model that ignores the very essence of media and journalism as an essential mechanism to keep the public informed and to regulate government action. Old practices like investigative journalism, speaking to power, capturing public outrage and educating the population, have gone by the wayside to make room for a new breed of media ownership that cozies up to the policymakers and/or private sponsors in order to avoid negative consequences.

      Traditional media profit margins have been curtailed by the proliferation of information channels and the technological boom that gave rise to the new media. Nobody has a big market share anymore because there are just too many competitors. Add to that the excessive powers that governments wield over them, like ownership of the frequency spectra, the right to exclude or shut down media outlets, the right to decide whether they get printing materials, the right to enforce heavy penalties, etc. What you now have is a decrepid, geriatric, impotent media: once powerful instruments for societal change that can no longer generate a positive impact because they are hoveled by their tenuously delicate financial outlook and will not risk getting in trouble by actually carrying out their most important responsibilities.

      HegemonCorp, Maduro, Degwitz… they are not puppets. That analogy falls short of the mark. It presupposes some evil mastermind orchestrating everything frombthe shadows. How can that explain the lack of accoutibilty shown by US government and the wide margin that the media gave officials during scandals like the Snowden incident, or the “Fast and Furious” ATF debacle? This kind pusillanimous permissiveness was also granted to France’s Sarkozy, Italy’s Berlusconi (who is a media tycoon let’s not forget), as well as countless other venerable and respectable Excellencies, who were virtually undisturbed while they were in office… Do we really think Lex Luthor is behind all this? I propose a different analogy.

      Most types of Cancer are essentially the reproduction of corrupted, useless cells, which then kill working cells -you know, the ones that actually perform their functions. They don’t kill them in accordance with some evil blueprint; the corrupt tissue just reproduces and hoards the available resources until the host dies and then, puff!… No more resources.

      The new craven media owners and abbusive government hardheads have a corrupted mindset. They don’t realize that the media is a valuable management tool to help in the regulation of proper government. They can’t conceive of the media as an information feedback mechanism for policy makmakers and adminiatrators. Above all, they refuse to see that without it, the system looses balance and society dies and decomposes… So they continue to spread their cancer, which has metastasized throughout the world… Sensorship Cancer.

      The results are as clear as day here in Venezuela… Not convinced dear reader? You’ll just have to take my word for it because, right now, I have to excuse myself; you see, I have to go stand in line for two hours to buy toilet paper. I just hope I don’t get mugged or killed on the way there, for the money, or on the way back, for the paper.

      • Just to tell you, your analogy of cancer is failed, that is not how cancer works. Cancer cells do not “kill” other cells (rather, healthy cells collaborate with, and fight against, cancer simultaneously in a rather fraught process) and yes, there is a blueprint for cancer, since it is a disease of the genes and cancer cells act on instruction of its genome, as well as intructions from healthy cells that push them on.

        What you should use here is a viral epidemic as Ebola or AIDS, which is what you are more or less describing.

        • Fair enough. Thank you for your contribution. Maybe a parasite will do too. My point stands thought. This behavior spreads like a disease, with no ulterior motives other than the benefit of the corrupt players at the expense of the population. It’s become fashionable to be a son of a bitch, because it’s effective and there is no push-back from peers, friends, family or the public.

          You know what? I’ll stick with cancer, because although I see plenty of decent people opposing totalitarian brutes, there are far too many “healthy cells ” collaborating with the spread of this most pernicious and lethal system, even after all we have seen. Could it be that oppression and misery are as much a part of human nature (of our DNA both metaphorically and literally) as freedom and joy?

          • Love this:

            “It’s become fashionable to be a son of a bitch”

            Honestly, Venezuela is in a bad shape, but the world has advanced a lot in the last 40 years, thanks to capitalism, so don’t be pessimistic.

    6. So, it has been accepted as normal that any newspaper is beholden to the Government for newsprint, and that it is required to negotiate with the government in order to operate. THAT is not a free press.

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