«Телекритика» 13 червня 2015
Luis Alberto and Jose Alberto Lopez Rafaschieri — political scientists that live in the capital of Venezuela Caracas. They have published over more than 500 Spanish and more than 200 English language articles on subjects related to politics, economy, energy and religion in a range of journals. They have written for journals such as «El Nuevo Herald», «El Universal», «El Mensajero de Oriente», «PetroleoYV» and «Analitica.com» and have now published a new book entitled «La Gran Recesion y la Izquierda» («The Great Recession and the Left»). Website Morochos.org
– In Venezuela, in time Bolivarian dictatorship, it is difficult to speak about a freedom of speech, a free press and TV. But can today Venezuelan opposition apply new methods to reduce streams of disinformation from pro-government media?
– Now, Venezuelans use Facebook, Youtube and Twitter to know about events that do not appear in the formal press, for example, riots, political repression and speeches from the alternative politicians. That happened because of a increasing censorship and auto-censorship of the traditional media. This was evident in the national protests of 2014. The majority of the people of our country and the world was informed about the crisis by the citizen journalism. Including big TV networks like CNN, covered the events using verified photos and material published in Twitter or Facebook. Then, In the current Venezuelan political context, where the increasing censorship of traditional media is the rule, the use of new methods to deliver information to the public is obligatory, especially, the Information and Communication Technologies, like Internet and smartphones.
– Recently Venezuelan President Maduro threatened violence local media, if they will continue to distribute materials about illegal circulation of drugs, manipulations of power in a justice and corruption of public servants, which connected with the government. Or was it by a duty attack on freedom of speech in Venezuela?
– Yes. The IAPA, a nonprofit organization devoted to defending freedom of speech in America, recently made a study documenting the actions of the Venezuelan government in threatening, arresting, and even torturing journalists, as well as young student activists who have protested against the Nicolás Maduro regime in the last months. Venezuelan press workers have had their equipment confiscated, their work restricted or impeded, while others had their photos deleted by police officers or members of the military, or in their defect by so-called “peoples collectives,” armed civil groups ideologically identified with the government. For this government, the suppression of the freedom of speech is one of its main policies to maintain the power.
– Actions of power, which is trying to block international media, correlated with a large list restriction of rights of journalists and freedom of speech in Venezuela? Beginning from encouragement of self-censorship, up to the closure of newspapers, magazines and TV channels, and ending with restrictions, what are imposed on printed mass-media in connection to importations of paper.
– The international press has suffered the same difficulties than the Venezuelan media to inform about the events producing here. Journalist Fernando Del Rincon was fired for a moment from CNN due to the pressure the Venezuelan government applied to this TV station. And many international reporters, like Francesca Commissari, have been arrested for covering our civil protests. All these actions are part of a whole censorship policy. oriented by the Chavista regime to repress the circulation of free opinions and information. In Venezuela, we have newspapers ceasing operations because of the scarcity of paper and ink. We have TV channels that have expelled journalist or animators because of his political comments, and others have been sold to the government under menace of legal sanctions if they refuse to sell the business. In that ways, the governments control the independent media without using force directly, but you can note also that if they do not accommodate to the regime’s will, these private organizations confront hard legal penalties and violence.
– How offensive the dictatorial regime of Maduro on freedom of speech correlated with applying harsh measures in social networks and the oppression of independent bloggers?
– The Internet is a mass-media, and for that reason it do not escape to the government’s repressive policy. The government of Nicolas Maduro control the Internet limiting the access to certain sites that offer information about the parallel currency price and political protests. In our country, it is increasing difficulties to buy computers parts and devices needed to access to Internet, like the modems and routers. Also, in days where the opposition organize its events, the government shut down the Internet or put several problems to the connectivity of sites like Twitter or Facebook. About blogging, in Venezuela, some people that maintain blogs or is very active micro-blogging (teetering) have been imprisoned or punished because of his political comments in the cyberspace.
– Repressions and censorship all the time grow in Venezuela, but up to Hugo Chavez your country has been one of most democratic in Latin America. Why did it all happen?
– At the beginning, the “Bolivarian Revolution” was a popular movement, having wide political support in the Venezuelan society. Many scholars and leaders from several sectors expressed, in that stage, his affinity with many of Chavez`s criticism and reforms. That changed year over year because of the incremented social problems that the Chavista regime do not solved. Today, Venezuela is a country with worst insecurity, inflation, corruption, political repression and scarcity than fifteen years before. The dream was broke mainly for that cause, lack of results, lack of a better quality of life for the majority of the people. This process strongly influenced the growth and radicalization of a opposition that demands a change. To control the riots, demonstrations and opinions of this dissidence, Maduro has desperately reacted hardening his repression policies, trying to evade a general collapse of his administration.
– According to the information «Espacio Público» 2014 was the «worst year» for freedom of speech in Venezuela. Was registered 579 violations of freedom of speech and 350 complaints about it. In Venezuela now is not any guarantee of human rights on freedom of opinions and looks?
– The guarantees are written on paper in the Constitution, nonetheless, the numbers mentioned in your question are just a part of what Venezuelans face in the real life. And the current scenario is worst than 5 years ago. Now, a lot of people, including politicians and journalists, are out of these statistics because they skip on commenting on sensible issues for the government to avoid problems. There are fear, then, repressive actions are not necessary in thousands of cases. Another difference with the censorship 5 years ago is the target. During past years, the government repressive measures were taken primary against big media companies, prominent politicians and famous NGOs. Currently, this has changed because those groups has been bought, reduced, expelled or even eliminated, which moves the repression until common citizens. In today’s Venezuela, it’s a normal thing the imprisonment of a person because of his comments on Twitter or pictures in Instagram. Several Venezuelans has been prosecuted just for taking a photo of the large lines of people waiting for toilet paper or flour outside the supermarkets.
– Critical narrowing of public space in Venezuela shows, that the state hostile to their citizens, and want for them to decide that, what they need in the information sphere, and what not?
– As is usual with socialist models, the government assume that the vast majority of people is not prepared to rule their own lives. These kind of regimes think they need to choose what is good, what is bad and what is convenient for the people, so the control of information is presented and manipulated following this scheme. Everyone not aligned with the official version is view as an enemy of the State or a dangerous person for the revolution. Some days ago, president Maduro said he is discussing with TV channels owners the modifications of TV soap operas, He accuses the telenovelas of spreading “anti-values” to young people by glamorizing violence, guns and drugs. Last year, Maduro said a similar idea about video games and the film Spider Man, and the State Internet provider has blocked many websites because the regime thinks they offer “false” or “evil” content to the public. Chavistas leaders believe they can decide better than the people what is good and what is bad, using this as an excuse to continue expanding his censorship policy.
– Able regime Maduro reduce a freedom of speech entering restrictions through restricting access to the Internet?
– The ruling party in Venezuela has tried to control the Internet in several occasions. They have tested repressive measures against the on-line communities, as dropping the servers, blocking some sites, and slowing navigation speed. More recently, the PSUV is preparing a law to determine the kind of use the people should have when accessing the virtual world. This have increased and will increase censorship, however, until now, the Internet in Venezuela have not reached the repression seen in China, Cuba or North Korea.
– Censorship and oppressions of freedom of speech today touched such national newspapers, as «El Universal» or «El Nacional»?
– Almost all newspaper, tv and radio stations are currently in control of the government, its allies or politically inoffensive editors. El Nacional and El Universal were the last bastion of opposition driven big mass media publications. They followed the path of Ultimas Noticias, a company owned by the Capriles family, relatives of the opposition’s principal figure, who sold their newspaper to businessmen associated with the government. The important media is not a problem for Maduro. The free press is reserved to on-line websites and other small companies.
– As long of dictator Maduro can remain for a certain time, when violation of human rights, harassment of the opposition and the lack of freedom of speech provoked political crisis in Venezuela?
– It is hard to say how long can hold Maduro this situation. The quantity of people disbelieving in the Chavista project is increasing year over year, and the political demonstrations have become most frequent and radicalized in the past periods. Also, the scarcity of basic products like milk or sugar, and the astronomic inflation that our society confront today, about 70%, are factors synthesizing in a tragic combination. We cannot say if it is this year, we cannot say if it is the coming year… But we can affirm one thing, as long as our country continue facing this context of political and economic crisis, the acting president and his entire regime will confront unpredictables scenarios of political instability.