The National Telecommunications Commission has requested Internet providers in Venezuela to block information portals Cocuyo effect, Chronicle Oneand the television channel The Venezuelan TV, leaving from the city of Miami. The executive decision has not been announced, reasoned publicly or substantiated with reasons. Quite simply, these media were no longer accessible within the country.
This is not the first time that such a thing has happened in Venezuela. Several non-governmental organizations have been denouncing since, at least, 2014, the selective blocking of informative sites, usually critical, or independent of official interests, with discretionary measures of this nature. From that moment until today, they have been silenced for Internet users, among others, the multimedia portals El Pitazo, VivoPlay, Venezuelans for Information, Noticias al Día, Alberto News, Armando.info, La Patilla, Caraota Digital and We Monitor; besides the Colombians NTN24 Y Time and the Argentine Infobae.
The blockade ordered by the Government does not necessarily bring with it the end of these media, which often use and encourage the public to use a VPN to break the digital blockade and have access to navigation. Sometimes the blocks are temporary. Some of these portals are highly visited by an audience eager for information, in a country in which the traditional referential media, particularly the printed ones, have been almost totally destroyed by the legislation and the harassment of Chavismo.
Carlos Correa, director of Chronicle One, is not at all surprised by this measure against the outlet he directs, even though it was never communicated to him: “We are surprised that it had not happened before. We have been denouncing these practices before instances such as the United Nations for 8 years, which have been replicated countless times in many digital portals, some of which, by the way, are not necessarily news.”
Correa points out that, in a legal regime, what is appropriate is that these measures be taken prior to a judicial ruling, in the event that any of these spaces violate the legal system, which, in his opinion, has not occurred in any case. . “Once again we are facing a state that not only does not offer basic guarantees of reliable internet access, as established by international standards, but also threatens the free information efforts made by digital portals in Venezuela to break censorship. and offer plural information to citizens”, says Marianella Balbi, Executive Director of the Press and Society Institute.
“The blockades to informative sites are established by the main Internet service provider in the country, the state-owned Compañía Anónima Nacional Móviles de Venezuela,” explains Balbi. “Through oral orders, without leaving a record, instructions are given to private providers to impose censorship.” The directive states that, in 2021, IPYS Venezuela collected evidence of digital censorship with the methodology of the Open Network Interference Observatory, thanks to its National Correspondents Network, in which 1,071 evidence of impediments to 22 news portals were identified.
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“The web page was blocked for us, not the live signal,” explains Carlos Acosta, general manager of EVTV, a critical line television channel broadcast from Miami. “There people could read our informative updates. But in Venezuela, the public has the advantage that they can download the app for free. EVTV. We also have VPNs and we continue to offer our content on YouTube.”
“These measures increase the difficulty for people to visit our page, but they do not make it impossible,” says Carlos Correa. “We have to make an extra effort to encourage and publicize the use of the VPN among those who are not digital natives, and that forces us to make an effort to publicize our work on social networks.” The reality that Correa describes is the same as the rest of the portals that have suffered the official veto: they continue to work, and now they must redouble their efforts to reach an audience that, in any case, continues to consume and demand a lot of information.
They file the case, but the threat continues
Nearly three years later, Venezuelan courts shelved the case of journalist and activist Luis Carlos Díaz, who was arbitrarily detained in March 2019. Díaz was taken away by intelligence officials as he was cycling home. He was missing for several hours, until his relatives learned that he was detained. They opened an investigation for the crime of public incitement and prohibited him from leaving the country, from testifying to the media and imposed a weekly regimen of presentation in court, measures that were lifted.
The argument for the arrest was the manipulation of a video of a web show he did with his wife, Naky Soto, to incriminate him as responsible for the great blackout that the country had experienced that year. This recording was released by Diosdado Cabello, second in command of Chavismo and deputy of the National Assembly. The police report stated that #Seriouslythe Díaz y Soto program, was “destabilizing”.
His defense ensures that he is still at risk because the ruling “does not translate into a declaration of innocence, but rather the file is saved and the investigation could be started again.” The threats persist for him and other journalists. At the beginning of January, Cabello again pointed to Díaz, his wife Naky Soto, and other journalists, such as Carla Angola, anchor of The Venezuelan TV, in a stigmatization campaign calling them thieves. The communicators appeared on posters with the message “Wanted” together with opposition leaders. All this happened during his weekly program broadcast on an open signal on state television VTV. Opposition gentlemen who ask for intervention, we are going to look for you. Here I got the list of the first ones who will receive surprises, forgive me for the gift wrap because there was none, “said the official.
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