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Maduro Celebrates “Libertarian” Journalism

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Jun 30, 2014, 11:14 am

EspañolOn June 27, President Nicolás Maduro celebrated national Journalists’ Day, in a desperate attempt to recover his popularity at the polls and cover up his administration’s violation of press freedoms. His attacks against independent media, unfortunately, have outdone even late “Supreme Leader” Hugo Chávez’s previous crackdown on free speech.

The date was the perfect opportunity for the government to debut their video tribute, Chávez: 21st Century Communicator, at the Miraflores presidential palace. During the ceremony, Maduro boasted of the “full freedom of expression” that the country currently enjoys, and mocked those who believe otherwise. He also announced the start of a review process of all mechanisms of government and decision-making in order to “enter a higher level of consciousness and true efficiency for the people.” Maduro then awarded the 2014 Simón Bolivar National Journalism Prize to Eleazar Díaz Rangel, head of the Venezuelan daily Últimas Noticias.

Surprisingly, the day’s most outrageous claim came from Rangel himself, who in his acceptance speech said that the governments of the Fourth Republic — the 40 years prior to Chávez’s rule — censored the media and restricted freedom of the press. For Rangel, it was only after Hugo Chávez took office that “the censorship and intimidation of the media stopped.”

Attempting to mimic Chávez’s historic revisionism, including a convenient recounting of Simón Bolivar’s ideas, Maduro’s government launched an advertising campaign round Journalist’s Day this year which praised the work of Correo del Orinoco, the official government news agency created by Chávez on June 27, 2009.

This rag was named after the eponymous outlet founded by Simon Bolivar on June 27, 1818, to spread the ideology of the patriot cause of the era. This is why Journalists’ Day is celebrated in Venezuela on June 27.

The most laughable part of this campaign — broadcast primarily by the state channel Venezolana de Televisión — is that it praises the state-run newspaper and its journalists not only for supposedly following in the footsteps of Bolívar but for carrying out Hugo Chávez’s command to become the “artillery front” in the media war allegedly begun by Venezuela’s democratic opposition, along with Latin-American oligarchies and US imperialists.

Maduro commended Correo del Orinoco for its “professional” work, standing as an example of “great thought battles,” instilling a “patriotic conscience” in Venezuelans, and making journalism a “libertarian instrument.”

At this point, it is truly unbelievable that Maduro would dare to speak of professionalism and libertarian communication, when it is clear that he has ushered in the radicalization of “communication hegemony” that Chavistas have been pushing forward for years.

Never before in the history of Venezuela has the government so blatantly politicized public media and used it for its own interests, or so visibly and grotesquely used its power to censor. The government has now shutdown or indirectly taken control of at least 700 radio and television networks.

No previous administration has harassed and financially strangled the press as badly as the current government. In this way, the state has taken almost complete control of virtually all media in the country.

Never before has a government assaulted, either verbally or physically, social commentators and journalists as the Chavistas have done. According to Marco Ruiz, the current general secretary of the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP), 231 attacks on journalists have occurred during the protests against Maduro that began last February.

During the first 10 days of the protests alone, Venezuelan law enforcement agents, armed civilians, and demonstrators attacked, harassed, or robbed 62 journalists.

As Damian Prat says, these are dark times for journalism, freedom of information, and expression in Venezuela. The government’s talk of “libertarian journalism” is a joke — another communist trick.

Truly libertarian journalism and free speech is what democratic media owners and journalists in Venezuela struggle for with dignity and courage every day.

Libertarian journalism also includes all citizens who use social networks and digital media to exercise the right to peacefully resist a deceitful, authoritarian, and neo-communist government, as well as the right to communicate and express opinions freely within and beyond our borders.

Translated by Daniel Duarte.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.