Refuting claims that Venezuela has been saddled by a clamp down on freedom of expression in recent years, Vice President for the NGO Journalists for the Truth, Jose Gregorio Nieves, challenged corporate media outlets to report the reality of the country during an appearance on the program All Venezuela, broadcast by Venezolana de Television.
“More than 80 percent of Venezuelans know what kind of Venezuela they want, what they need from a news media committed to our sovereignty and committed to the history of our people”, Nieves said during an interview held on International Press Freedom day last Tuesday.
According to the media activist, Venezuela is currently living “an explosion of freedom of speech” that is evidenced by the accelerated growth of small and alternative media outlets around the country.
Nieves pointed to the fact that the South American country’s telecommunication industry has been growing by 20 percent annually and that more than 60 community television stations as well as 250 grassroots radio and print operations have been founded since Hugo Chavez became President in 1999.
This reality contrasts starkly with the version of events being offered by the corporate-run media organizations, many of which where directly involved in the attempted violent overthrow of Chavez in 2002.
“The majority of Venezuelans are not content with just receiving a message”, Nieves commented, “but rather in analyzing it and verifying it, especially after April 2002 when the rightwing in alliance with the private media and foreign interests executed a coup d’etat against President Hugo Chavez”.
During a conversation with other journalists on Tuesday, Freddy Fernandez, director of the state-run Venezuelan News Agency (AVN), also questioned the mainstream media’s version of events in the Caribbean nation and a recent report criticizing the country’s performance with respect to press freedoms.
“One should analyze the situation in fellow countries such as Honduras where there have been more than 20 journalists killed over the past year and a half after the coup d’etat carried out against the president of that nation, Manuel Zelaya. Or one should look to Mexico and Colombia where many journalists have had to ﬂee in exile”, Fernandez said.
The director of AVN suggested that the Venezuelan National Assembly pass a law that requires the identiﬁcation of the owners of media outlets to be public knowledge.
“That way we can protect ourselves against manipulations carried out by business sectors”, he said.