Venezuela’s Ministry of Communication and Information provides this valuable Question & Answer (Q & A) brief on Venezuela’s new Law on Social Responsibility in Media:
1. How does the Reform of the Social Responsibility in Media Law modify the original?
In addition to radio and television, Internet media are added as subject to regulation, not in order to limit web sites or services available on the net, but rather to ensure the responsible use of this important tool. Concretely, the law provides for sanctions against those who use the Internet to incite hate, criminal activity, war propaganda, alterations in public order, homicide; or advocate to disobey constitutional authority. The reformed Law also stimulates Venezuelan producers and media professionals by requiring the broadcast of at least 50% of nationally-produced television programming during prime time hours.
2. Why weren’t the same objectives achieved with the original Law?
The Law of Social Responsibility in Television and Radio did not include any reference to regulating the responsible usage of Internet media. Sheltered by this omission, some web sites, such as Noticiero Digital, have published numerous articles and messages inciting violence, rape, criminal activities and even the assassinations of public figures. It’s not difficult in Venezuela to find calls for the Armed Forces to revolt against the government or even to assassinate President Chavez on different web sites, blogs, Twitter or Facebook. These are dangerous actions that no civilized society can permit.
3. Will social networks such as Twitter and Facebook be prohibited in Venezuela?
Some private media have portrayed the idea that Internet and social networks will be censored in Venezuela. This is a massive distortion of the reality of the Bolivarian Revolution, which has made major, irreversible advances in providing all Venezuelans with access to new technologies. It’s hard to imagine, even by mistake, that Twitter would be prohibitedin the country with the most BlackBerry users in LatinAmerica. Or that Facebook would be censored in a nation where access to Internet has grown by 900% in the past two years with over 8 million Venezuelans connecting daily to the world wide web. Additionally, the Chavez administration has provided tens of thousands of free laptop computers to school children and has opened thousands of “InfoCenters”(free computer and Internet access stations) nationwide.
4. Do Internet regulations exist in other countries?
You only need to search the web to find the answer to this question. In Spain, for example, the Anti-Downloading Law authorizes the government to eliminate any sites that publish content violating copyright regulations. As could be imagined, the sponsors of this law are major multinational companies that greatly benefit from this measure. In the United States, the President can disconnect all Internet services for up to four months based on the threat of cyber-attacks that could place national security in danger. And all content inciting violence against individuals or criminal activity is strictly prohibited on commercial websites.