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VeneEconomy : Set on the path to silence



In her first speech as Brazil's President elect, Dilma Rousseff affirmed that she was going to allow “the broadest and most unrestricted freedom of the press and freedom of religion” and that she preferred “the criticisms of the free press to dictatorships; the free press to silence.”

Unfortunately, Venezuela is not so lucky. Its president, Hugo Chávez, has devised an entire fabric of laws that restricts the rights of free association and speech of individuals, civil society organizations, and political parties and penalizes freedom of expression.

One example of this is the Political Sovereignty Defense and National Self-determination Act.

This law makes the international funding of NGOs or any individual effort aimed at defending political rights illegal, so effectively banning the participation of citizens in public spaces, citizen control over the branches of government, candidates from running for public office, and also the dissemination of, information on, and defense of the full exercise of political rights by the citizenry.

The new law leaves these organizations and individuals, who stand guarantors of a country's freedom and democracy, at the mercy of the governing elite: first of all because it is this elite that has access to the lion's share of funding in the country, and secondly, because it will be even more difficult for initiatives that defend free elections, such as Súmate, organizations such as Transparencia Venezuela, which promotes corruption-free management of government, or institutions that promote free enterprise such as Cedice Libertad to obtain private sources of funding in a Venezuela where the private sector is also subjected to the totalitarian dictates of the “revolution.”

Another example is the amendment to the Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Electronic Media Act, which now includes cable television services and the electronic media.

This amendment grants the Executive greater discretion when it comes to deciding when a message promotes or incites people to hatred, intolerance, the committing of a crime or constitutes war propaganda and generates anxiety among the population or disturbances of the peace, adding a ban on and penalties for any message that refuses to recognize “the legitimately constituted authorities” or “promotes or incites people to not comply with the current system of laws.”

Penalties include fines of up to 10% of gross earnings for broadcast media and fines of up to 200 tax units or 4% of earnings in the case of the electronic media. Conatel will also be able to apply precautionary measures, including ordering the suspension of messages. A possible consequence of this noncompliance or failure to recognize authorities is the revoking of administrative qualifications or media concessions.

These two laws alone, rushed through by a moribund National Assembly, suffice to show that, in Venezuela, a silence is being imposed that confiscates freedom to criticize and freedom of opinion.

 


 

VenEconomy has been a Venezuela's leading specialized publisher on financial, political and economic data since 1982. VenEconomy's Points of View on the issues of the day, as seen by VenEconomy during the last week. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.

Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published by Veneconomy , on Jan, 13, 2011. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers.

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Petroleumworld News 01/13/2011



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