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Censorship in Venezuela

March 27, 2010 Leave a comment

By Javier Velandia

After the Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez declarations about controls over the Internet, multiple organizations, newspapers and  Venezuelan users, have expressed their concerns about the government intervention in the media and the future of the freedom of speech in Venezuela.

The declarations made by Chavez after a political and gossip Website “Noticierodigital.com” falsely wrote about the assassination of one of the Venezuela’s Senior Ministers, provoked several reactions that put the topic of the internet regulation on the table. 

“The internet cannon be something open where anything is said and done,” Chavez said “We have to act. We are going to ask the attorney general for help, because this is a crime.” He also complained about social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, where many of his critics planned protest against the government, arguing that those places spread unfounded rumors.

For some Venezuelan Nitizens, Chávez declarations are a real threat for the freedom of speech. Some media laws the political atmosphere, the close relations with other countries that strongly regulate the internet like Cuba and Iran and the new technological infrastructure, are some of the reasons why organizations like Human Rights Watch and the Inter American Press Association closely followed the situation calling attention, and demanded guaranties to preserve the freedom of speech in the country.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, America’s director at Human Rights Watch, said “For years, Chávez has sought to intimidate and punish broadcasters who criticize his government, now he’s also going after those who refuse to promote his own political agenda.”  

One of the main concerns is the future of technological infrastructure, in the next months Venezuela will have a unique connection point, a more efficient system that provides faster access, but at the same time will allow the government to have control over the contents. It Is true that many countries like Mexico and Brazil have implemented an “only access point” but the political reality of those countries is different. 

Since 1999 Chávez has intimidated and attacked the local media, as a result more than 53 radio stations have been closed, the oldest TV station “Radio Caracas Televisión” (RTVC) was taken off the public airwaves in 2007, and the opposition voice and the media freedom of speech have been reduced to the Internet.  What will happen if Chavez finally has the opportunity to control it?

Despite the statements, Chavez government denied the intentions of controlling and regulating the Internet “”This is not about covering anybody’s mouth. It’s about the media acting responsibly.” said Aristobulo Isturiz, a leader of Chavez’s Socialist party. But what are the standards for judging what it is responsible media and what is not?

Venezuela is one of the South American countries that have the “desacato” law that criminalizes offending public officials, and  is one of Chavez tools to control the media, almost every article o public opinion against a the government is punished. Last month Guillermo Zuluaga, owner of Globovision TV and one of the most influential critics of president Chávez, was arrested and then realized, in connection with a speech for the Inter American Press Association considered offensive to the president.

Certainly the debate will not stop here, the battle between Venezuelan Government and the media will be on the table for a long time, but what will be Chavez next move? Will he be able to censor the internet?

References

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62F00V20100316

http://www.noticierodigital.com/

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62D05I20100314

http://www.unionradio.net/Actualidad/#&&NewsId=42735

http://informe21.com/human-rights-watch/human-rights-watch-condena-suspension-los-canales-no-transmiten-las-cadenas-oblig

http://threatened.globalvoicesonline.org/blogger/alexis-marrero

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/01/26/venezuela-stop-abusing-broadcast-powers

http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

http://www.rctv.net/

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Categories: Venezuela

The fear of Iranian Government

March 25, 2010 Leave a comment

By Javier Velandia

The called Twitter Revolution (July 2009) showed the world the multiple violations to the freedom of speech in Iran and the power of internet and social networks in social movements.

During the past elections in Iran, the Internet played a big role as a tool for the political and in the political and social movements against the government. The multiple “twits” blog posts and text messages transmitted to the world through the Internet showed the impact of “citizen journalism”.

The situation in Iran was public to the world. Governments like the United States and the UK monitored and supported the citizen movements around the internet and criticized the censorship of the media in Iran.

For the Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadineyad the Internet was a threat. He was at risk of losing control over internal and external information and of losing his power, a risk of losing control over internal and external information and for losing the power. The multiple social movements created through the social networks went from the virtual space to Tehran’s streets and undermined the government’s credibility both within the nation and around the world in the nation and the world.

During the elections both text messages and the internet service were suspended.

After the “Twitter Revolution” the United States Government saw in social networks the perfect weapon to fight against Mahmud’s regime and take one step further  towards democracy in Iran.

This new status of social networks as political tools, is changing the way of looking at the internet and its benefits . It has emerged as the perfect scenario for debates on politics and social behaviors)and has become the new scenario for politics and social behaviors.

The biggest fear of the Iranian Government is to loose control. the image of the internet as a tool for democracy and as a space to  promote freedom of speech are the reasons why Mahmud’s Government filter  the internet with stronger controls and new technologies.

Some of the regulations of the Iranian Government include slowing down the internet access, filtering information, banning internet sites and arresting several internet activists like bloggers. with the excuse of preserving religion, morality, and social harmony

http://opennet.net/research/profiles/iran

http://threatened.globalvoicesonline.org/bloggers/iran

Categories: IRAN