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Communicational Control within Venezuela

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

How the Maduro Regime strives for a monopoly of information (Part 1)


By Harshul Makim

Freedom Voice Reports

October 15, 2022 at 8:30 pm


Maduro & Xi

"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787


The Maduro regime continues to practice lessons well taught by authoritarian regimes throughout history in order to attain a monopoly of information received by the people of Venezuela. Doing so would ensure that the only narrative received by ordinary citizens would be the one crafted by the regime.


But attempting to attain such a goal has not gone without notice by democratic governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), activists, and journalists throughout the free world. Advances in technology may have resulted in creating additional avenues for mass communication, but the principles of mass control remain the same.


Press


According to the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela, “Independent journalists in Venezuela operate within a highly restrictive regulatory and legal environment, and risk arrest and physical violence. These difficulties also extend to non-governmental organizations working on analysis and…To avoid persecution or undesired consequences, including arbitrary detentions, many journalists and news media resort to self-censorship.


The same joint statement, which commended the courage of press workers in the country who continue to report under high risk, stated that the “regime also allocates significant resources to disseminate its own messaging and drown out voices that challenge its narrative”. Additionally, the statement was signed by twenty three countries to include England, Germany, Japan, France, Canada, and Australia.


The revocation of operating licenses of news outlets in recent years has”...left coverage increasingly in the hands of…pro-government newspapers like Ultimas Noticias, covering Maduro’s official activities while ignoring rising levels of malnutrition and disease”, as reported by Reuters. In fact, other notable news entities such as The Guardian have referred to the outlet as a “pro-Maduro tabloid”.


This tradition was bestowed upon Maduro by his predecessor under whose reign a Venezuelan court accompanied by the National Guard seized the media building owned by El Nacional, one of the oldest newspapers in the nation, with its editor -in-chief currently in exile in Spain. According to the Washington Post the “...anonymity of the new ownership group and a dearth of information about the sale” was seen by many as the government’s way to silence its critics, a tactic still being used by his successor.


These news organizations combined with the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN), a state-run enterprise and the heavily censored La Patilla makes for a dismal print media landscape within Venezuela. A country that as recently as 2021 had “...a poor press freedom record, scoring 148 out of 180 countries, where 1 is the most free, according to an annual index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The media watchdog cites harassment of independent media, arbitrary arrests and a “tense climate” that has led many journalists to flee” (Voice of America).


The insidious tactics that began under Hugo Chavez have only improved during the reign of Nicolás Maduro. According to the Government of Canada, “The Maduro regime has…orchestrated the acquisition of media trusts to secure friendly editorial perspectives and propagate state-sponsored policies, messages and ideology. State-owned media outlets provide almost exclusively favourable coverage to the regime…As a result, Venezuela has lost its once-vibrant newspaper sector and the Maduro regime controls the domestic narrative.”


Through such a web of heavily monitored print based communication channels, the regime continues to stifle voices of dissent that are necessary for a healthy democratic society. The victims of these practices, the ordinary men and women of Venezuela, have no recourse but to either protest in silence or risk their livelihood, and at times their very lives, to exercise their right to dissent against an autocratic regime. At the moment the options for the people of Venezuela to receive information through a once celebrated print news tradition are few to none.


"The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers... [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper." --Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp, Oct. 13, 1785



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