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Venezuelan journalists are either pro- or anti- Chavez and that's the way it will remain for quite a long time to come!

By       Message Roy S. Carson       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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VHeadline editor & publisher Roy S. Carson writes: I guess it was only to be expected, as night follows day, that someone from the government side should come out to howl and holler denials arising from domestic and foreign media reports that Venezuela's 'strongman dictator' President Hugo Chavez Frias is "about to crack down on all voice, data and video communications that have been invented or will be invented in the future."

Now that's quite a mouthful as well as being quite an assertion for anyone to make, but...

It rather reflects the ... shall we say ... "paranoia" raised in some sectors of the community over the perception that Venezuela's duly-elected leader is perhaps going too far with the projected Telecommunications Law which the Caracas daily newspaper TAL CUAL claims will leave Venezuelans 'incommunicado' by suspending all forms of "broadcasting, emission or reception of signals, signs, written matter, images, sounds or information of any kind via cable."
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  • President Chavez, of course, claims the conjecture to be more of the same old, same old! "Constant lies and distortions by the private media in a desperate campaign; a conspiracy plan that simply seeks to destabilize the country and make Venezuela seem like a dictatorship!"

The Miami Herald -- never backward in coming forward to howl abuse at anything Chavez does -- went so far on August 25 to headline "Chavez tightens grip on media" and to claim that the new law is a "blackout law" on freedom of expression, giving absolute power to the executive branch to order the blackout of information for "reasons of national security" which need never be explained; that Chavez will effectively be able to control information at his discretion!"

Telecommunications (Conatel) Minister, Socorro Hernandez, has denied that the currently draft-law will allow increased state control or media sanctions ... but the proof is in the pudding and will certainly be the subject of rigorous discussion when it finally arrives before the National Assembly (Congress) to approve or disapprove. Under the draft terms President Chavez will have exclusive authority to order the suspension of "any type of transmission, emission or reception of signals, signs, writings, images, sounds or information of any nature."

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Excuse me! But that sure looks like one hell of a lot of authority to rest on the whim of an individual, especially since the individual concerned is already suspected (admittedly quite irrationally) of being an 'authoritarian strongman, dictator' by large sections of the unwitting international media that relies on the Fox News version of world affairs for what serves as political insight for the neo-conservative proletariat of Anytown USA.

Admittedly there is sound reason for some degree of control over the more lunatic utterings that pollute the Internet, but do the Venezuelan legislators who will ultimately decide IF President Chavez should be allowed to wield the massive sledgehammer ... do they really really think its the best route to take?

The answer to THAT must necessarily wait until the draft is discussed in plenary session in the Venezuelan Congress. Hopefully some degree of sensibility will be at the legislators' disposal before they commit hara-kiri and commit Venezuela's democratic to the grave.

The problem is that everyone with even only half an ounce of brain power who witnesses what is happening in Venezuela, will see that even if the Venezuelan government is rightly or wrongly feeling the intense sting of international critique, its track record of the last ten years is NOT conducive to any naive belief that everything will turn out in the end.

Regrettably, recent years have seen a decline in what is generally accepted as press freedoms in Venezuela although it is not necessarily the pro-Chavez government that is uniquely to blame.

...and it isn't helped any by ministry hacks who're so afraid of the hell that will immediately descend from them from a great height IF they speak out of turn and/or in-absentio Ambassadors and other assorted government flunkeys who throw adolescent tantrums when faced with having to give explanations for various administration misdeeds -- like unruly teenagers barricaded in their bedrooms believing they don't have to (ultimately) come out and face the music...

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It is an accepted fact that the privately-owned media in Venezuela is driven by an intense hatred of Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias. You need only read massive sections of the (Spanish-language) Venezuelan national and provincial media each day to understand that the political opposition is in control of most of the broadsheets as well as the more popular radio and television stations.

On the other hand you need only read the plethora of pro-government and/or government-owned media to understand that if there is any balance to be found in Venezuelan reporting, it is to be found in a non-existent vacuum somewhere between extreme Right and extreme Left with nary an opportunity for objectivity, which appears to be an anathema to Venezuelan journalists in general.

You're either pro- or anti-Chavez and, it appears, that that is the way it will remain for quite a long time to come.

Unless, of course, Chavez gets the executive power to stomp all over the opposition media if and when it dares to raise a critical voice under any future Orwellian state of emergency that he may concoct or have thrust upon him.

Are we exaggerating? Quite simply NO!

For during the USA-backed attempt by 'Dictator-for-a-Day' Pedro Carmona Estanga to impose a dictatorship in April 2002, the selfsame opposition media ganged together to install their own media news blackout when it became apparent that Carmona Estanga's ambition to sell Venezuela up the river to Washington DC had failed!

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Roy S. Carson is veteran foreign correspondent (45+ years in the business) currently editor & publisher of VHeadline Venezuela reporting on news & views from and about Venezuela in South America -- available for interviews -- call Houston (more...)

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