Photo: EFE retrieved
As a 90s kid, I can remember some of the moments that made my weekend mornings, as I woke up on Sundays and walked to my parents bedroom to say “bendición” and “good morning.” My dad usually asked me to go buy the newspaper, some milk and two loaves of bread, while he and my mom caught up with the news on TV. Simpler times during which Radio Rochela, Loco Video Loco, and later Aló Ciudadano on Globovisión kept us company while (sometimes) also informed.
Today, 11 years after Hugo Chávez’ had his revenge on Marcel Granier by closing RCTV, we can see the real value of freedom of speech for chavismo.
Many years will pass before another Venezuelan kid experiences being a Sunday messenger. According to the SNTP (the union of national journalists), since Maduro took office, more than 40 newspapers around the country have closed their doors, seven of them just on the first trimester of this year, all because of the centralized paper distribution. The government refuses to allocate materials for those newspapers it finds troublesome. Those still running have chosen to go from a daily edition to a weekly edition, and it won’t be long before they go monthly. What about the workers? Maduro might be the Presidente Obrero, but everyone working in those newspapers face the daily fear of unemployment, only to stay at the mercy of the government and its CLAP.
The government refuses to allocate materials for those newspapers it finds troublesome. Those still running have chosen to go from a daily edition to a weekly edition, and it won’t be long before they go monthly.
On 2018 alone, more than 60 attacks towards journalists have been reported, eliciting chavismo’s total indifference, which is no surprise since 42 out of those have been made by the government’s security forces.
The sad thing is that we’ve become so accustomed to this that those who want to inform themselves must go to Twitter, unreliable as it is. We started 2018 with 69 less news outlets, of which 46 were radio stations, including 92.9 FM and 100.1 FM, who were openly against the government in a harmless, humorous way; three others were TV stations. The rest were newspapers.
The issue is more dangerous than it appears. According to Miguel Henrique Otero, exiled owner of El Nacional, all these abuses go further than just a measure to scare and threaten individual journalists and free thinking, it’s actually a process to eliminate private news media entirely. If you don’t have information, then you don’t have tools to defend yourself, and without tools, there is no resistance.
Not even one week after these past elections, CONATEL continued its crusade against the media which justifies its existence, because God forbid that you have a personal opinion on the political situation, or some criticism on the regime’s agenda.
“Remember that we can’t talk negatively about the elections or Maduro’s legitimacy as president, or we could be taken off air.”
The first attack was against Globovisión, a TV station taken by representatives of the regime, losing the spunk and drive that used to make it popular. It continues to broadcast interviews with political figures, but guests have to encase their thought process under a series of rules so the channel isn’t sanctioned by CONATEL. In this case, it was Luis Alejandro Ratti, ex presidential candidate, who said (live) that the results of May 20 were fraudulent and full of tricks, vices and manipulation by Mrs. Lucena and Mr. Maduro themselves. Because it was a third party’s personal opinion, Globovisión got a Cease and Desist from CONATEL, threatening with harsher measures if they continue showing that kind of material. Mind you, before any of these shows start, Globovisión mentions that the views and opinions of the guests are their own.
This happens on the radio too, by the way; I’m tired of listening to Nelson Bocaranda saying every day to his guests “remember that we can’t talk negatively about the elections or Maduro’s legitimacy as president, or we could be taken off air.”
And just recently, El Nacional was punished for content on its social media, El Nacional Web. According to Maduro’s iron fist, the site, which posts interviews of people on the street, “spreads messages (to portray) this government as illegitimate and incite and promote hate.” Again, it may be a third-party opinion, but if it hurts chavismo’s delicate sensibilities, you’re out.
Truth is, we are losing ground. An already powerful regime is trying to control what we think, what we feel and what we say, in an Orwellian slide where, eventually, two plus two equals five.
We have to win before our minds are no longer ours.