September 1st protest was a big success, in spite of all the government’s efforts to sabotage it: from launching a new crackdown on Voluntad Popular to shutting down all road accesses to the capital.
The government also tried to minimize the press coverage of “La Toma de Caracas”. To do so, they decided to kick out several special correspondents who came to Venezuela to cover it.
On Tuesday, a group of journalists for Al Jazeera was denied entrance into the country by SAIME immigration officials at Maiquetia Airport, who told them they were some legal “last minute changes”. After spending the night nearby, they went sent back in the first flight available. AJE regional correspondents Teresa Bo and John Holman confirmed the situation on Twitter.
24 hours later, three other journalists faced the same ordeal: Cesar Moreno of Colombian TV channel Caracol, Marie-Eve Detoeuf from French newspaper Le Monde and John Otis of U.S. National Public Radio. They were given a paper from the Venezuelan Immigration Service (SAIME), considered them as “non-admissible persons”.
In a sign of just how counterproductive these tactics can be, John Otis shared his tale with NPR’s listeners,
Apparently the government thinks it can control or tamp down news coverage of Thursday’s protest by keeping out foreign reporters. But international news organizations like CNN, AP, Reuters and Bloomberg News all have permanent correspondents here, so it’s not like proceedings will go unnoticed.
What’s more, sending us packing only reinforces the government’s heavy-handed reputation with the press. I had to sign an official letter declaring myself an “inadmissible person” and add my two thumbprints to the document.
"Ha sido considerado persona No Admisible…por no cumplir requisitos" dice boleta entregada a reporteros deportados pic.twitter.com/4YE6KKsC2Y
— SNTP (@sntpvenezuela) August 31, 2016
Jérôme Fenoglio, director of French newspaper Le Monde offered his support to the reporters and condemned the Venezuelan government for “the obstacles put against the freedom to inform”.
The government used the excuse of legal changes to expel journalists, but that isn’t enough: Jim Wyss, the Miami Herald correspondent in the Andean region (who already had his own share of bad experiences in here before) was also detained and sent to Panama. Wyss insists that all the paperwork required to work as a journalist was in order, but he was kicked out of the country anyway.
Information and Communication Minister Luis Jose Marcano denied that those journalists were deported, accusing them instead of being part of “the right’s violent plans”. On his Twitter account, he said that any foreign media outlet that doesn’t respect Venezuelan laws will be not admitted.
We’re still waiting to know what those “last minute legal changes” are all about.
In case you’re curious, here are the legal requirements needed for international correspondents to work in Venezuela. We’re still waiting to know what those “last minute legal changes” are all about. As Otis wrote in his NPR account, “…the (Information and Communication) Ministry ignores our requests or we have to deploy on short notice, so we usually go in as tourists.”
The MUD’s Secretary-General, Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba, rejected the expulsions of foreign correspondents and attacked Maduro for trying to stop coverage of the “Toma de Caracas”.
In comparison, the hegemony didn’t have much trouble with domestic media. It took a strong warning from broadcasting authority CONATEL and targeted attacks against non-hegemony outlets: The offices of newspaper El Nacional were attacked for the second time in two months.
The result: a quite minimized coverage of the “Toma de Caracas” in private media, in comparison with the official counter protest which got all the support of State Media (with lots of close-ups). HegemonCorp’s Ultimas Noticias didn’t disappoint at all in its front page the morning after.
Gravísimo concepto totalitario del principal periódico gubernamental: La paz no es algo para imponer.pic.twitter.com/oONMfXHblX
— Luis Carlos Díaz (@LuisCarlos) September 2, 2016
The communicational hegemon’s distate for foreign correspondents in general is more than evident: Back in June, a hegemony-related website published this article, in which they call them “info-mercenaries” and accusing them of “looking for an international intervention in Venezuela”.
The events of this week presents a new escalation in the deteriorating relationship between the government and the international media.
Last week, two of them were detained for hours by Military Intelligence agents just for taking a picture of El Calvario stairs. But this situation is far from new: Days before the Legislative elections in December of last year, several reporters complained that MinCI was putting severe restrictions on their work. And in 2015, the Foreign Press Correspondents Association in Venezuela (APEX) released a strong written statement, in which they demanded authorities respect for their work.
The events of this week presents a new escalation in the deteriorating relationship between the government and the international media. Even if they still have the help of some friends like Russia Today, seems like the hegemony will treat most correspondents like a library treats dogs.