Photo: Informe 21 retrieved
After reading the headlines, Cesar Miguel announced he will be playing music this morning, because he can’t discuss what’s really going on in Venezuela. The last mass-audience news commentary show on Venezuela’s airwaves, which had somehow made it through 20 years of escalating pressure against the media, had no commentary this morning.
It’s a sign of the times. The threats and blackmail against Venezuelan media outlets currently imposed by Conatel, the Maduro regime’s telecoms regulator, have exploded in the weeks Juan Guaidó assumed the Speakership of the National Assembly.
Days before a new Conatel board was sworn in, radio and TV stations, as well as print media, received an “exhortation” by the regulator to abstain from issuing messages, or making calls to events that encourage destabilization or the disregard of “duly constituted authorities.”
They cited the draconian Article 27 of the highly controversial Law of Social Responsibility of Radio and Television — a loosely argued provision that bans messages that “encourage, promote and/or glorify crime as well as messages that “constitute war propaganda,” or “foster fear in citizens or alter public order.”
This exhortation aimed to limit the coverage on open assemblies and the call for national protests made by National Assembly Speaker, Juan Guaidó, for January 23.
Recently, in an open assembly held in Santa Rosa de Lima, Caracas, Guaidó referred to the absence of media in the place. He talked about the tough reality that media outlets are going through with this regime and encouraged attendees to help spreading the messages and calls through social networks.
Threats materialized into actions
In the days prior to January 23, several radio and TV stations have been warned once again by Conatel of potential sanctions, shutdowns and confiscations of equipment if they repeat the calls to disregard the “legitimate government” and fail to comply with the Law of Social Responsibility.
Radio Fe y Alegría National Network, one of the largest independent radio circuits with over 20 stations across the country, was notified that they couldn’t broadcast any opinion or political analysis programs with the same arguments.
One of the affected spaces is that of opposition leader Alfredo Ramos who had been on the air for a year with his show “Alfredo Sigue,” a space of opinion with a broad audience in low-income sectors.
Media owners and workers say there’s a list of information and opinion shows that might be pulled off the air in the coming days if they keep defying Maduro’s government. Additionally, there’s an important group of TV stations that would be forced into silence, since their concessions are expired.
Something curious (and related to the aforementioned pressures) took place on January 14, during the celebration of the Divina Pastora, when local TV stations in Lara (Promar TV, Somos TV and Latina TV) applied self-censorship, interrupting their broadcast for a second year in a row at the moment that Msgr. Víctor Hugo Basabe, from the Archdiocese of Barquisimeto and Msgr. José Luis Azuaje, head of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, held masses for worshippers during the Virgin’s procession.
People in Barquisimeto might as well be living in caves and using smoke signals to communicate. We no longer have printed papers, there are few radio stations that offer information. The remaining stations only play music and regional TV stations merely focus on entertainment shows.