Two weeks ago, the MUD announced its long dealayed internal reorganization. Overall public reaction has been muted, but one specific group sat up to take notice, the Venezuelan Journalists’ Guild (known as Colegio Nacional of Periodistas or CNP). CNP’s current chairman Tinedo Guía accepted a post on MUD’s new collective leadership team: and not everyone at CNP thinks that’s a role you can combine with representing journalists.

Guía, a well-known radio personality, intends to run MUD’s a position he holds alongside labor lawyer Alfredo Padilla. He has said he accepted the job because it’s his civic duty and it wouldn’t clash at all with his current responsibilities as head of the CNP.

This is problematic, because the conflict of interest he’s setting himself up for is blatant: what if a CNP member discovers some embarrassing scandal about MUD? What if a journalist digs up direct evidence of wrongdoing on the part of another member of MUD’s new leadership team? An Odebrecht bribe, say, or something else? Would Tinedo Guía use his power to try burying the story? Whose side is he ultimately on?

But last week, internal discontent with Guía’s new role with the political coalition became public, after an alleged written statement signed by 17 regional CNP heads was published by several media outlets.

…your appointment as MUD Social coordinator, besides being surprising to a large number of CNP members, is counterproductive and not in keeping with your duties to the membership, for the harmful and damaging consequences that such designation could carry to the guild, already trashed and constantly attacked by the government and its representatives.

Anna Rosa Matheus, head of the CNP-Lara section was one of the signatories. She confirmed me in a phone interview both the content of the document and the overall displeasure with Guía’s actions. She said the statement was only for internal consumption and had leaked without consent. For the record, other CNP offices like Carabobo State distanced themselves from it.

Guía defended his position saying his new role doesn’t clash with the legislation that rules the work of journalists (Ley del Ejercicio del Periodismo). He’s right, in a narrow legal sense, but really this isn’t a legal problem. The issue is about ethics.

In an interview with El Estimulo (linked above), local media expert Andres Cañizalez said:

For me, there’s an incompatibility between the two tasks even if it’s not legally established, because is understandable that journalism is set off against (en la acera de enfrente) of the political power. Even if the MUD isn’t in power, it wants to reach it. If (Guía) feels as a citizen it is his duty is to support the MUD that’s legitimate, but if this is his priority then the healthiest course of action would be to step aside from the journalists’ guild.

In the meantime, the government and the hegemony are seizing the opportunity to do just what the rest of CNP’s journalists feared: undermine the CNP and use the controversy as a distraction from the recent shutdown of CNN en Español.

For Matheus, it’s not surprising. “They’re out to discredit the guild and to sow divisions among the membership”. And in case you’re wondering… yes, the hegemony has its own CNP (the Venezuelan Journalists’ Platform).

The issue is expected to be discussed in a special CNP meeting to be held in the next few weeks. Guía didn’t go to the first meeting at his new job in the MUD, but seems like he’s now actively working at it.

This all hits close to home. I’m a journalist and a card-carrying member of the CNP. In my view, Mr. Guía’s decision to join the MUD and continue as CNP chairman at the same time is not in the best interests of the guild or of our profession as a whole, especially at this critical time. I respect his reasons to join the MUD, but still consider the roles incompatible.

Article 26 of the Ethics Code of the Venezuelan Journalist says that “The Journalist has as an imperative duty to use all efforts to achieve the strengthening and success of the CNP”. If this is important for a simple rank-and-file member like me, it should be even more so for the Chairman.

Guía is right that “Venezuelans should not avoid their responsibilities”, but in these trying times, when the very existence of journalism in this country is at stake, the need for a fully-committed Chairman to make the fight for press freedom his only priority. If Mr Guía thinks otherwise, then he should leave CNP’s Vice-President Nikary Gonzalez in charge.

We all respect Tinedo Guía enormously, and expect him to make the right decision.

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Great post, GEHA! It’s a nice topic to bring into public light.
    I got mixed feelings about this. Even though there’s a potential conflict of interest implicit in mixing duties as political leader and a guild chairman, the truth is that MUD needs representation from the broadest possible group of social organizations, guilds, etc. The MUD could credibly leverage its commitment to represent the ‘will of the majority’ by directly being represented by the leaders of such majority (which in my mind means the leader of the CNP and also most if not all of other such guilds, besides social groups and its representative-democracy backing in the ballot box).

    There are clear issues of conflict of interest, principal/agent, and collective action. But in principle I don’t think it’s bad for the MUD to be closer to the majority of the country by aligning more directly with a broader base of socioeconomic groups.

    At the end you need to have as much de-facto power as possible in order to effect change, right?

  2. You have a point, but I believe in this particular case the overall integrity of the CNP could be openly put into question. A professional guild doesn’t have the same responsibilities as a political party.

    • It’s true that the CNP and MUD could work together in order to achieve specific goals. That’s fine. But cooperation shouldn’t mean integration. Guia’s actions opens the door to a possible merger of both organizations. That’s what I’m against. Instead, the MUD could follow the example of AD or other political parties and create (or improve if they exist already) internal sections for professionals, farmers, workers and other society sectors.

      Civil society groups and political parties can work together but have to keep institutional distance. Otherwise, we end up like Chavismo’s version of fake unions, guilds and NGOs.

      • Agreed. The titular head of the Fourth Estate should publicly avoid partiality, whatever and however justified his personal views….

      • Gustavo, you raise an important concern here. One of the little discussed, significant injustices of Chavismo is its attack on the independent trade union movement. Trade unions which are not officially endorsed or approved are denied representational rights and cannot act within the law on behalf of their supporters. For as long as this regime has been attacking the press, it has also been attacking and undermining trade unions. As a result, officially sanctioned unions, that should be fighting on for benefits, back pay, safe workplaces, and improved conditions, as well as playing a robust role in broader civil society, are silent at best, and real unions are marginalized and deprived of recognition in the eyes of the law.

        A trade union should remain independent from a political party. It is entirely appropriate that they support political parties that support their members’ goals, but that is distinct from becoming the same thing, which is essentially the abuse we are talking about here under chavismo.

        With that principle in mind, my question is then: what exactly is the MUD? I had always understood it to be an alliance of political parties, and not a broader civil society alliance so on that understanding, I would agree with you. Having said that, it would be heartening to see the MUD partnering with organized labour to advance their common aims. i.e. democracy and the rule of law. And it would be thrilling to see an actual worker (or former journalist) or two in the political leadership, but not wearing two hats.

        In any event, yours is not a minor concern, because despite what people say about petty principles, those principles may in fact be the critical thing that distinguishes the opposition from the status quo, and what gets people up in the morning to fight for change rather than just accept the system and milk it for what they can get.

  3. The MUD is only nominally and formally an association of political parties but in reality its become a movement , a national movement of the whole of civil and political society to resist the regimes efforts to transform Venezuela into a total tyranny , because its goals trascend politics then it is both legitimate and lawful for every segment of society to participate of its activities….that includes people like the current president of the CNP. !! The call for CNP to remain above it all , in an ivory tower representative of the pure spirit of journalistic impartiality is pettyfogging and pretentious in the extreme ……!!

    Such luxuries are for people who live in free countries not in one where the governing regimen spends all its efforts in trying to trottle the few freedoms we have left…

    • Exactly! Thank you for putting into words, that which I was thinking about this article. The house is on fire, and mom and dad are arguing about what clothes are appropriate to wear before fleeing the encroaching flames.

  4. So, what is new? MUD trying to imitate the government in everything and creating a new hegemony that leads…nowhere, and will cause nothing except more years of chagrin, stupidity and a further (if that is even possible)degradation of our political system?I am proud of the journalists that stood up and that are still able to think.
    And by the way, the MUD IS a political party and not only that: it is, in fact, the ONLY “legal”political party of the opposition. That is not widely known and it is something that for some reason is not analyzed, even though it is a fundamental fact.

  5. In a democracy an independent press is essential.
    Venezuela is no longer a democracy. It would be reasonable for all of the CNP members to voice their support for the MUD and fight the tyranny that the press is a victim of.
    If he believes that this is in the best interests of the CNP to oppose the persecution of the press, his membership may be beneficial to the CNP.
    I understand the concerns regarding influencing a story that may cast the MUD in an unfavorable light. In reality that is the least of Venezuela’s problems. Creating a united front against the Maduro narco-regime may be worth the burying of inconsequential stories that could sow division. In essence the ends justify the means.
    The challenges are great. Some hard choices will be made. This isn’t a civilized society with a functioning government. This is an oppressed society run by criminals. Whatever quickens the demise of Maduro’s rule should be the only objective.
    Mr. Guia is doing what he feels is best, Allowing him the benefit of the doubt may be a wise thing.
    His expertise may help the MUD and at the same time he may have more influence to help the CNP.

    • MUD is not the whole opposition. If journalists sell themselves to the MUD, they will only be writing about how great and important the dialogue was-is, about the crazy radicals and-even more disgusting- they will be constanly praising Julio Borges political genious. Meanwhile, the country will continue its downfall and all the other voices in the opposition and in the country in general will continue to be ostracized and marginalized. So it is logical that journalists understand that if they really want to do their job, they can’t follow the editorial line of a corrupt political party, be ir the MUD or the PSUV. I feel sorry for the guy, he is leaving a good job for…covering himself in infamy. The MUD is death. Even LL is destroying himself by allowig his party to be a part of that infamy, and that will be his downfall too.

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