Anti-Hate Law Used to Harass Media

Security and intelligence agencies are enforcing the Anti-Hate Law, even though it stems from an illegitimate institution. First they went for protesters, now a Cumaná newspaper became the first in its kind to be under investigation.

Photo: El Universal

This week, the infamous Anti-Hate Law entered a new stage in Cumaná (Sucre State), with its first-ever use against a media outlet: The main board members of newspaper Diario Región Oriente were questioned by officers of Military Intelligence (DGCIM) over an article published on January, 11. Last month, two protesters became the law’s first casualties.

Journalist Yndira Lugo, director of the paper, endured a two-hour meeting, saying the case was brought by a Popular Struggle Circle (Circulo de Lucha Popular), a low-level PSUV branch of Cumaná. The investigation will now pass to the Public Ministry.

The article, titled “The Communists warn!” (¡Los comunistas lo advierten!), is based on quotes made days earlier by Perfecto Abreu, a high-ranking member of the Venezuelan Communist Party, who said that Venezuela is “at the gates of great social unrest” and that the majority of Venezuelans feel “uncertainty, indignation and desperation… over the aggravation of the socio-economic situation in the country.”

With Abreu’s words as backdrop, the article goes into an analysis of 1989’s “Caracazo”, its main causes and the possibility of a similar scenario today. Looks like the 27-F references were alarming enough for some local chavista apparatchiks.

Some of you are probably wondering “what’s a Popular Struggle Circle, anyway?” .

The term came from the PSUV’s 2011 internal document Strategical Lines of Political Action, in which the future organization of the party is outlined. The circles are the second level basic groups, formed from the smaller patrols (which later became the Bolívar-Chávez Battle Units, or UBCH). Four UBCHs form a Popular Struggle Circle (which I’ll refer from now on as “CLP”).

Reading the article, you can see the rationale used by the local CLP members to strike. I admit that the piece is a structural mess, but it also offers different opinions and the main source is a public statement made by a pro-chavista politician, published in other outlets.

This incident isn’t the first rendezvous of Diario Región Oriente with the hegemony: The paper flirted a couple of times with Newsprint-geddon and Yndira Lugo herself was attacked last May by pro-government demonstrators. The National Guard detained her later.

The use of the Anti-Hate Law to coerce the media was something I warned about since its proposal last August. As previous legislation only covered radio, TV and Internet, this one can cover from newspapers to public gatherings and even street graffitis.

At least 20 restrictions against the press were registered on the first month of 2018, according to NGO IPYS Venezuela. Meanwhile, some private outlets decided to keep things quiet by either firing presenters or censor their social networks to avoid talking politics.

This is how the hegemony rolls.