Mérida, August 5th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - In response
to private international and national media claims that Venezuela is
discussing a media law which denies freedom of expression and punishes
journalists, National Assembly members said that no such law proposal exists,
only a discussion around how to combat the "media dictatorship" and "media
president of the media commission in the National Assembly, Manuel Villalba,
said on Tuesday that a proposal for a law with 17 articles, as claimed by some
media, doesn't exist and that rather, the Attorney General, Luisa Diaz, had
presented ideas to the National Assembly, which are being debated, but that
there is no consensus around her proposals.
not official," Villalba said, explaining that no law had been formally
presented or proposed. "All this just confirms that there are media owners who
are systematically disseminating false opinions," he said.
Rosario Pacheco said that so far the draft that they have of the law considers
media crime the publication of false, manipulative or distorted information
that causes "harm to the interests of the state" or that threatens "public
morale or mental health." The assembly has discussed a maximum penalty of four
Asalia Venegis told Venezuelan Television (VTV), "This law project... incorporates
everything that is unequivocally expressed in the Law of Journalist Practice
and the Code of Ethics, which establish a series of perspectives over what the
treatment of the news and the role of the journalist should be."
also suggested the law should focus on protection for journalists who are
coerced into putting their name to, or writing articles that they don't
believe. Therefore, she said, rather than going against freedom of expression,
the law should "promote safe and true freedom of expression that reaches
everyone and doesn't attack the peace of the citizens."
she said in Article 20 of the Constitution, everyone has the right to freedom
of expression, so long as they don't violate the rights of others or attack the
state, the health of other people, or the public morale.
Diaz's contribution to the National Assembly, opposition media and
international media have published articles suggesting that the Venezuelan
government supports jail for media crimes and is trying to "regulate" or
"limit" free speech.
Tiempo (Latin America) portrayed the lack of consensus in the assembly as a
negative thing and quoted Organisation of American States (OAS) general
secretary, Jose Insulza, as saying the "situation of freedom of expression in
Venezuela is "worrying."
newspaper, El Universal, quoted the director of Amnesty International talking about
"unacceptable restrictions on the freedom of expression" in Venezuela. An AFP
article titled "Chavez's measures towards the press cause protests and
international unease" highlighted the possibility of jail punishment, and
quoted a protestor as saying "we're journalists, not criminals".
legislator Desiree Santos said the debate had begun because it was important to
establish mechanisms that guarantee the right of the people to be informed
truthfully. "There has always been full freedom of expression [in Venezuela],
even when there has been an excessive use of that freedom," she said.
[media] practice has to be confronted, because there can't be anyone in this
country who acts with absolute impunity," Santos said. "The discussion about
the proposal for the law should be centred on analysing the media and fighting terrorism,
the... environment of tension that [the media] is creating amongst the population."
also said, "It's not okay that in the name of freedom of expression arbitrary
abuses are committed, and all kinds of outrages."
said the National Assembly would continue debating the contributions made by Attorney General Diaz, and he called on all social sectors to also participate in the
have been debates and forums across Venezuela for the last few months around
the theme of media terrorism or the media dictatorship, a dictatorship which
Villalba argued is being "imposed from the large social communication companies,"
nationally and internationally.
Cabello, head of Venezuela's telecommunications agency
(CONATEL), announced the closure of 34 private radio stations for operating
illegally or violating regulations. The minister said many of the stations had
failed to register or pay fees to CONATEL. Decisions are still pending on a
further 206 stations.
also explained that new reforms to the Telecommunications Law aim to break up
the "media latifundios" by limiting ownership of radio or television
stations to three per private owner. Under the reforms broadcasting concessions
are designated as un-inheritable property, and are therefore non-transferable
to family or colleagues in the event of the death of a concession holder.
Friday, the minister for communication and information, Blanca Eekhout, said
90% of international publications constantly lie about, discredit, and