May 29, 2007
Mourning Venezuela's Freedom of Expression
This blog is about telenovelas, but I must write today about how freedom of expression is being severely eroded in my country.
Sunday, at midnight, Venezuelans saw a sad sucession of images on their television screens: the faces of RCTV's workers and friends singing the Venezuelan National Anthem were substituded with a black screen that signaled the end of 53 years of uninterrupted television. Seconds later the logo of TVES, the new government TV station, appeared on the screen.
A commercial, private media outlet has been substituted by a government-controlled one.
A friend told me that it feels as if Venezuela has been suddenly mutilated. It has lost an eye, an ear, and some of its voice.
Since Sunday night, the streets of Caracas and other major cities are smoldering with citizens, many of them students, who feel that the closing of RCTV is unacceptable and that the government has gone too far this time. Tear gas and plastic pellets are being used to "control" them. (Tonight there are more than 100 underage youngsters in jail in Caracas because they were protesting in the streets. At the time of this writing, their parents haven't been allowed to see them).
Meanwhile, the President, his ministers, and members of the unicameral and uni-ideological National Assembly, fill the airwaves threatening local and international media that define what happened to RCTV as a "closing." These public officers also trivialize and mock the reaction in the streets and universities as "weepy" and unrepresentative of the larger population , or condemn it as concocted by the "oligarchy" fueled by "imperialism."
And as the fire of polarization is being stoked, the division between government supporters and opponents is again evidenced. And this fracture that has broken my country into two is as sad as the overt attack on Venezuelans' freedoms.