Photo: Bee Breeders retrieved

Venezuela’s internet freedom further deteriorated during the past year due to declining internet connectivity, bolder online censorship, and reprisals against critical news reporters and social media users.”

The hegemony’s assault on the Internet gets a new emergency call from NGO Freedom House, which just released its annual “Freedom on the Net” report. The global overall picture of digital rights isn’t looking pretty and the specific chapter about Venezuela draws an accurate portrait of proactive measures for the digital crackdown that has been rapidly affecting the internet’s scope since 2013. 

Venezuela’s internet freedom further deteriorated during the past year due to declining internet connectivity, bolder online censorship, and reprisals against critical news reporters and social media users.

The Anti-Hate Law, passed by the Constituyente last year along with other pieces of legislation, gives almost complete discretionality to punish dissenting views and limit access to sites critical to the government: websites continue to be selectively blocked during specific events; independent digital media and social media accounts experienced frequent cyberattacks and users and reporters have been arbitrarily arrested for opinions and research shared online.

The Carnet de la Patria has a special mention, along with other methods that curb privacy: “During the past year, worrying developments included the mass distribution of the Carnet de la Patria (“Fatherland Card”), as well as a new ruling aimed at obtaining and retaining personal data of users of telecommunication services, particularly mobile telephony… The government has increasingly required citizens to hold new electronic identification cards, known as the “Carnet de la Patria”, to receive state benefits. During recent elections, ruling party tents (“Red Points”) were deployed near polling stations to scan and renew voters’ cards, a strategy which was decried as a means to track voter participation in real-time and pressure voters to cast their ballot in favor of the government”.

Another concern is the effects of the economic crisis which is also being felt online: “Frequent internet service failures and poor-quality connections also continued to hinder reliable access to the internet.” Theft of wires and constant damages to the infrastructure have caused connectivity troubles, exacerbated by electricity blackouts. The lack of access to currency isn’t helping either.

Even if the report only follows cases until May of this year, those have not stopped at all.

Theft of wires and constant damages to the infrastructure have caused connectivity troubles, exacerbated by electricity blackouts.

One of those recent cases involves two Merida State firefighters who were arrested and charged back in September for sharing a video on Twitter of a donkey pretending to be Nicolás Maduro.

Their situation kinda changed on October 31st, as a local court released Carlos Varon and Ricardo Prieto from prison, with some restrictions. But their trial will still be held. Simply, they won’t face charges under the Anti-Hate Law but under the Venezuelan Penal Code instead: Article 147 (disrespecting the President) and Article 285 (instigation to disobedience of laws or hatred among inhabitants).

The catch here is that those have lighter prison sentences if they’re convicted: six to thirty months in case of Article 147, and three to six years regarding Article 285. In comparison, they would have faced at least twenty years if the Anti-Hate Law was used as originally intended.

It’s pretty obvious that the backlash created by the press coverage of the story at home and abroad provoked a reaction inside the government to go softer on the firemen, but at the same time, their determination to lock them up and making an example of them is mostly unchanged.

And that also extends to the institution both men work for, as The Merida State Fire Corps, recently intervened by the Interior Ministry.

 

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13 COMMENTS

  1. So there seems to be a fuel shortage in Caracas and other cities. I wonder how the CLAP boxes will find their destination.

  2. The outlook is dim. The squeeze on internet freedom described in the article is before the application of the repressive techniologies under development in Russia and China, both of whom are invested in the Chavista regime and will do what they can to preserve its existence.

  3. 1. Tor browser. I have been using it to maintain contact with friends in Nicaragua, and some in Venezuela have said they have had some luck with it.

    2. ProxyGambit is a device used by my buddies in Nicaragua. A anonymization device. I don’t know how it works but they swear by it.

    3. Use a dedicated communication device. A portable computer used only for online activities.

  4. Information floods the cities and towns served with a bit of gossipy detail almost as soon as it happens , the exchanges ocurr by the thousanda of thousands , word gets arround by radio bemba ( word of mouth would be one translation) and then gets spread a hundred different ways , trying to control that is futile , you cant arrest the whole country , the millions of people who for decades have developed the custom of talking ill of govts and public figures, much of it in the form of jokes and banter …….they already hold back informing through official media lots of information but there is very little they can do to stop information altogether because every one inside the circle of govt has hundreds of gossipy family and friends who dont keep anything to themselves. and people are not afraid of talking , they rather relish it !!

      • You are right Gerry, in a manner of speaking the whole country is now a prisioner of the regime even if they spare you from the worst treatment they can inflict it on you whenever they want ..but their capacity to limit information from flowing is not as complete as sometimes journalist think !!

  5. RC—-no censorship is good or admirable, but there is a difference between private ownership and government that should be respected.

    If as many posts are being deleted as claimed, it would seem the new policy is overly restrictive.

  6. Now that the riff-raff has been cleared out, and the comments section made into a safe space for the more delicate, sensitive types, I would have expected them to have started participating by now.

    Maybe they are a bit timid and need another week or two.

  7. When living conditions are normal , where there isnt so much to complain about , where a govt despite its flaws and failures and misdeeds allows for the possibility of a change in government through the election of a different one via the exercise of free suffrage , whatever restraints on information are applied are more tolerable than when govt is totally incapable of ensuring even the basic needs of the population and shuts the door on the possibility of any change in govt thru normal democratic elections then the restraints on freedom of expression and information become intolerable , the govt would be wise to allow for an outlet for the expression of discontent before things might become explosive ……

    • “VOILA!!!” And thus we have the NEW Caracas Chronicles…a little bit of pressure release…but not too much!!!!
      And then THIS particular article? I learned a long time ago that there is no such thing as coincidence.
      (Sorry I just couldn’t help myself Mr. Toro sir!!)

  8. I have learned here that suppression of all media including the internet while increasing is old hat. It’s been going on for quite some time. So the news item here is that an NGO faulted the Chavistas for this infraction in a report. If the suppression were a debateable fact, this report would have meaning to me but everyone here seems to be in agreement that serious suppression exists. So why do we have this story in CC. I think the answer may be explained by the divide between conservatives and liberals. To conservatives like myself, my response to this story was I already know about the suppression and this report is just a piece of paper. I suspect liberals give greater weight to these “offcial” findings because it provides some outside validation for their views and is more evidence of mounting criticizm of this regime. Is there any other reason to consider this report worthy of our notice? What am I missing? Meanwhile there are reports about new sanctions on Venezuelan gold and Venezuela’s recent payment on bonds to forestall the loss of Citigo. The latter story says Wall St is confused by Venezuela’s payment of the bonds related to Citgo because many suspect that Citgo will be lost to Venezuela due to existing and future judgement creditors making these payments futile.The article suggests that Venezuela msy have the necessary funds to pay the current batch of creditors and might be able to fend off bondholders as long as Russia and China continue to provide the Chavistas a lifeline. If this calculation is correct the Chavistas may survive longer than many anticipated .

  9. Oh please… Things get censored all the time and people go on living and posting fake news anyhow.

    You are censored from yelling fire in a movie theater.

    You are censored from posting graphic pornography inside a children’s school.

    …etc.

    Every country has “gates” of one type or another.

    The fact that Google and Facebook and Twitter share your user info with China, Russia, Cuba, ….etc. should come as no surprise.

    They make money off of ratting you out to dictators.

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