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Venezuela: Bloggers Mobilize For and Against the End of Transmission of Radio Caracas Television.

Categories: Latin America, Venezuela, Freedom of Speech, Media & Journalism, Politics, Announcements

The television channel Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) [1] has enjoyed the ability to transmit over an open television frequency for the past 53 years. It is the oldest television channel in the country, and its license for the use of the frequency will expire. The Venezuelan government decided not to renew the license, just as we have written in the past [2].

The debate in the country continues to be the same: on one side the opposition to the Chavez government considers that this has to do with political retaliation in punishment for the channel's role of political opposition, and on the other hand, the Chavistas support the measure because it can now “liberate” the open television signal from a channel that has destabilized the country through its propaganda.

There is very little gray area in a situation so polarzied, but the best thing is to read both sides.

The Venezuelan blog directory To2blogs.com [3] opened a special section about RCTV [4] and is collecting all of the posts that the Venezuelan bloggers are writing about the subject. This tells us about the importance of this governmental action in the morale of the Venezuelan blogosphere, because in itself, the process is another opportunity for political confrontation, as we have become accustomed to. Blogs have been created especially about the topic, those that are in favor the measure (RCTV from the inside [5]) or against it (I am with RCTV [6]).

Up until now, there are more than 2,000 articles just in that site alone. There is a wealth of opinions about this conflict.

A channel without signal is a closed channel?

Within the political correctness language, “the non-renewal of the channel's license” means that it cannot transmit over open signal, which will affect the channel's economic standing and also the viewers will not be able to see it. The channel will not close, but it is restricted to transmit over cable, but because there is also no Digital TV technology in Venezuela, it ends this discussion.

Freedom of speech, public or private

The internal debates within each blog, such as the one at Slave to the PC [ES] with more than 200 comments [7], center upon whether the measure against the private channel represents a violation of freedom of speech.

Kira Kariakin comments [8]:

Para mí la cuestión radica en los principios que mueven una sociedad que se precie de democrática y en esos principios están incluidos no solo la libertad de expresión, sino el derecho a la disensión, al juicio justo, a la defensa, a la protesta, al trabajo, a la propiedad privada, entre tantos otros que con este retiro de la concesión de la señal para RCTV se violentan. Luego de sentado un precedente como éste no habrá marcha atrás en cuanto a la libertad de expresión en los medios.

For me, the question is based on the principles of a society that enjoys democracy, and within those principles they also include not only freedom of speech, but also the right to dissent, to a fair trial, to a defense, to protest, to work, to private property, among others, which are some of the ones that are threatened with the withdrawal of RCTV's license. After a precedent is set like this there is no turning back in regards to the media's freedom of speech.

Iria at Resteados [ES] criticizes the quality of the channel [9]and thinks that the problem of freedom of speech goes beyond whether or not it stays on the air:

RCTV sigue siendo hoy, el canal que hace 12 años dejé de ver por razones éticas y estéticas. No ha cambiado en estos meses desde que Chávez le dictó la sentencia de cierre.

Así que no tengo más que repetir: “Yo no estoy con RCTV”.

RCTV continues to be the channel that I stopped watching 12 years ago for ethical and aesthetic reasons. It has not changed during the months that Chavez gave its sentence of closing.

So, I have nothing else but to repeat, “I am not with RCTV”

Lubrio asks at El Espacio de Lubrio [ES] whether opinions and protests are really restricted in Venezuel [10]a, and provides an example of the opposition march on May 19, in which there was not a single repressive event.

La oposición marchó el 19 de mayo de 2007 en defensa de RCTV. Miles de opositores marcharon pacíficamente, algo que no pasa en dictaduras. Sin embargo, varios líderes opositores hacen llamados a que el 27 de mayo la población debe permanecer en las calles creando desestabilización para sacar al gobierno, lo cual es transmitido con normalidad en Globovisión y RCTV. Hasta llaman estúpido al Presidente Chávez.

The opposition marched on May 19, 2007 in defense of RCTV. Thousands of members of the opposition marched peacefully, which is something that does not happen in dictatorships. However, various opposition leaders are making calls that on May 27 for the population to remain in the streets creating destabilization in order to remove the government, which is a message transmitted with normalcy on Globovision and RCTV. They are even calling President Chavez stupid.

This week appears to be the end of the line for the channel. The license expires at midnight on May 27 and another Public Service station designed by the state called Tves will begin to broadcast. This is another station in the hands of the state, in addition to the official station and another four that are broadcasting on a national level.

Caracas is particularly tense and filled with protests [11] and mobilizations [12] for the past week. Vendors, actors and workers of the channel, university students, politicians, television viewers and members of political parties have all taken to the street … all in favor or against the shutdown of the station. Marches and gatherings are separated by geographic and ideological distances. The opposition is actively distributing audio of the protest [13] (mp3) via the internet on the nights of the 26th and 27th in order to sound an alarm in favor of freedom of speech [14]. The government has released the National Guard and Armed Forces in the city since Friday to prevent any public disorder.

On Monday morning, another intense reason for the political conflict will have taken place. The communications war in Venezuela will continue, even though the opposition will have one less channel at its disposal.

For a photoset, visit h_xavier's Flickr [15].