A black wall of Internet censorship has descended on Venezuela. The government has kicked out 7 CNN reporters from the country. And in Tachira, a hotbed of dissident activity, the Internet went dark for 36 hours.
Here in this country, we take for granted the ability to access most websites when we please. However, in Venezuela and certain other countries around the world, the governmental authorities control when you can and can't access the Internet. It doesn't matter which side of the political spectrum the government is on; any form of censorship of the Internet or any other means of freedom of expression is unacceptable. One poster Tweeted:
In Táchira we were without Internet, water, light, food, gasoline, [public] transport, commerce. But we do have balls, which is what Venezuela needs right now.
What particularly enraged the Venezuelan authorities over CNN's coverage was their belief that CNN was fermenting civil war. However, there is a big difference between fermenting civil war and reporting on the ground conditions that the government might not want heard. If the government cannot provide basic services such as Internet, water, light, food, gas, public transportation, or commerce, then it is not a matter of if, but when, the people will rise up or move out. Global Voices Advocacy, an international group advocating free speech, posts:
Internet blackouts of this magnitude are unprecedented in Venezuela. But web blocking is not. Over the last six months, as inflation has soared to over 50%, foreign currency valuation sites have been blocked en masse. Since protests escalated last week, hundreds of blogs and websites covering news and political issues have been reported as blocked, both on Twitter and on the crowd-sourcing platform, Herdict. For over a week, users throughout the country have reported difficulty accessing Twitter and a dramatic overall drop in Internet speed.We note that the late Hugo Chavez did not need recourse to these kind of Internet blackouts or web blocking to the extent that the present regime is.
After two days of darkness, service returned. Science and Technology Minister Manuel Fernández apologized for the disconnection, saying that there had been “problems at northern Táchira and in San Cristóbal,” caused by the “many fires in the city.”CNN is continuing to report from Venezuela. Mariano Castillo reports:
A media blackout has stymied the flow of information during some of the most intense days of clashes between anti-government protesters and authorities. In addition, strict regulations have pressured media outlets to tread softly when it comes to covering the violence.CNN has a feature named iReport, which users can use to submit their own news stories. They are then vetted by CNN's people. One submission contrasted Nicolas Maduro saying everything was under control with this:
These are developments that mostly have not been making it on to Venezuelan newscasts.And Castillo reports on other examples of Venezuela's ongoing censorship:
One vetted iReport video begins by showing a contrast: President Nicolas Maduro speaking on television about how things are under control, while outside a window, national guard troops are firing tear gas.
As he filmed, Giorgio Russo said the troops "aimed at me but since I live on the 14th floor I didn't think they could reach, but I was wrong."
A tear gas canister broke through a window and landed under a sofa, Russo said. His brother managed to throw the canister back out the window, but not before their 85-year-old father suffered from the gas.
The day before, according to Human Rights Watch, the state broadcasting authority warned that coverage of the violence could violate a controversial law that prohibits the broadcasting of material that "foments anxiety" or "incites or promotes hatred and intolerance for ... political reasons."
The Press and Society Institute monitored 38 radio stations the day of the killings and found that only five reported on developments in the day's deadly violence and 30 transmitted "light programming. The other three echoed the government's position.The ongoing culture of censorship by the Venezuelan government is deeply disturbing and does not pass the smell test. If everything is under control, then what do they have to hide through the use of massive censorship?