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Venezuela: Roger Santodomingo's Resignation from Noticiero Digital

Hola papi, me dijeron que eres un becado tarifado que vendió la patria por unos dólares. ¿Por qué hiciste eso, papá? Si sigues en eso me voy a tener que ir con el señor que me dio el chismecito el otro día. Dice que tengo que aprender a cruzar la calle y no hablar con extraños ¿Por qué eres tan malito papá? No te quiero ya

Hi, daddy, someone told me that you are a hired mercenary who sold out the motherland for a few dollars. Why did you do that, dad? If you keep doing it I will have to go with the man, who told me that little piece of gossip the other day. He says that I need to learn to cross the street and not to talk to strangers. Why are you so bad dad? I do not love you anymore.

The above note was given to a nine-year old boy at his school . His dad is Venezuelan journalist Roger Santodomingo, who until a week ago, was Noticiero Digital´s chief information editor. Noticiero Digital [ES] is portal that collects articles published on Venezuelan newspapers, includes a few blogs written by well-known journalists, and features online forums open to participation from anyone who wishes. Most of Noticiero Digital´s visitors are attracted to such forums in which Venezuelan politics is discussed without any kind of moderation. Noticiero Digital´s forum participants tend to hold extreme political positions, mostly against President Chávez’ government.

Because of the extreme positions held by ND forum participants, the portal has been signaled by pro-Chávez media as a vehicle for promoting a U.S.-funded conspiracy against the Venezuelan government. Santodomingo—as well as several other Venezuelan journalists—has been labeled as CIA agents for pro-Chávez media, including news-shows broadcasted by the national public TV, even though no official charges have been made by the Prosecutor's office (Fiscalía de la República) , which opened the case on May 28 responding to an accusation presented by the Minister of Communication and Information. After his son was given the quoted note, Santodomingo resigned from his position at ND. Nonetheless, early in the morning on this past Wednesday, his family van was set on fire while parked in front of his house. Police are still investigating whether the fire started accidentally or whether it was set intentionally.

RomRod [ES] was among the first Venezuelan bloggers to post on the issue,

Roger ha recibido innumerables acusaciones de traición, de fascista y de vendido “al imperio” por parte de la prensa oficialista y por el programa este de “La Hojilla”. Ingredientes muy necesarios para convertir a Roger en un blanco fácil. Lo que se persigue es callarlo y creo que lo van a lograr. Porque nadie en su sano juicio pone a su familia en riesgo cuando las cosas llegan a estos extremos. Roger se convierte en blanco fácil de oficialistas radicales porque no les gusta su estilo ni el medio donde hasta hace poco trabajaba. También se convierte en blanco fácil de opositores radicales que estudian la posibilidad de convertirlo en víctima de este gobierno para seguir apuntalando la estrategia esta de que acá no hay libertad de expresión.

Y no la hay. Porque en un ambiente tan caldeado, tan lleno de amenazas de lado y lado, ¿quién tiene los cojones para ponerse a ejercer plenamente la libertad de expresión?

Roger has received countless accusations of being a traitor, fascist, and a sell-out to “the Empire” [*chavistas call United States “the Empire”] from the pro-government press and the TV show “La Hojilla”. Necessary ingredients to make Roger an easy target. What they are looking for is to shut him up and I believe they will accomplish that, because nobody in his right mind will leave his family at risk when things go this far. Roger is now an easy target for pro-government radicals because they do not like his style or the media where he worked until little time ago. Also, he is an easy target for opposition radicals who may look for the opportunity to make him a victim of this government to fuel that strategy of saying that there is not freedom of speech here.And there is no (freedom of speech). Because with such a heated environment, so full of threats from side to side, who will have the balls to keep exercising complete freedom of speech?

EnigmasExPress [ES], a popular blog written by a journalist who uses a pseudonym, conjectures that the attack may have come from fascist Venezuelans, who will try to charge the government for it. Khandika claims that what happens is a consequence of the vanishing of journalism ethics in Venezuela, a situation in which he considers that Roger Santodomingo does not come clean.

In K-minos [ES], Kira Kariakin writes a more personal comment about the case,

Conozco a Roger y su esposa Faitha desde tiempos de estudiantes, me consta como a todos quienes les conocen en el medio que ambos hicieron carrera mordiendo calle y escribiendo con talento, dedicación y profesionalismo, haciendo periodismo escrito y audiovisual en medios de Caracas y el interior, y ahora una cuerda de violentos decide que hay que aterrorizarlos con amenazas sobre su hijo para callarles la boca porque no les gusta lo que dicen o el medio en el que trabajan.

I met Roger and his wife Faitha at the time when we were students. I know for sure, as well as anyone from the press who is acquaintanted with them that they both made a career hitting the streets and writing with talent, perseverance, and professionalism in print and audiovisual journalism in Caracas and in the interior. And now a crowd of violent people decide to terrorize them by threatening their son in order to close their mouths because they do not like what they say or the media in which they work.

Zinnia Martínez, a digital journalism college professor, opines about Noticiero Digital

Las opiniones, comentarios y sobretodo el aporte de los miles de comentaristas siempre me ha parecido bastante radical, encendido y en muchos casos demasiado ofensivo para mi gusto, y entiendo que es una especie de contraparte de Aporrea.org de la oposición venezolana.
(…)
Una cosa son los locos desatados escupiendo sus odios en un foro digital y otra muy distinta es amenazar a un periodista y su familia por administrar el foro.

Opinions, commentaries and above all contributions from the participants seemed always fairly radical, fierce and sometimes too offensive for my taste. I understand that it is sort of a counterpart for Aporrea.org of Venezuelan opposition.
(… However) one thing is someone crazed spitting their hate over in an online forum, and another very different thing is threatening a journalist and his family for administering that forum.

Rodolfo, another blogger/journalist argues,

Uno de los ejemplos más citados del periodismo ciudadano OhMynews es también uno de los que tiene mayor moderación pues si bien las informaciones son aportadas o directamente escritas por ciudadanos pasan antes de ser publicadas por el tamiz de un grupo de periodistas que contrasta, corrobora y revisa.

No creo que hacer algo parecido sea autocensura sino responsabilidad. No le estás quitando el derecho a la gente a que informe u opine pero la metes en un marco de referencia para que la información sirva para algo.

One of the most cited examples of citizen journalism, OhmyNews is also one of the more highly moderated because although the information is provided or directly written by citizens, before the pieces get published they are filtered by a group of journalists that contrast, verify and revise. I don’t believe that doing something like that is self-censorship but responsibility. One will not be restricting the people’s right to inform or opine but given framework in order to make information helpful.

In the Roger Santodomingo Blog [ES], at Noticiero Digital, Luis Carlos (GV author, by the way) claims,

Si de verdad quieres potenciar las herramientas participativas del periodismo ciudadano y generar alguna arquitectura de publicaciones independientes con criterio informativo, deberías plantearte el cambio a modelos como el OhMyNews, Bottup.com o DiarioMédico, donde se pide que para participar, la gente se identifique.
(…)
Insisto, es un vórtice voraz esto del anonimato concentrado en un portal. Por eso Noticiero Digital puede estar incluso alimentando la hoguera de la conflictividad ciudadana en el país. Y ya viste que a pesar de las maravillas diarias del flujo informativo, también trae consecuencias nefastas
(…)

If you really want to boost the participative tools of citizen journalism and generate some sort of independent publications architecture with informative criteria, you need to switch to models such as OhmyNews, Bottup.com or DiarioMédico, where identification is required in order to be allowed to participate.
(…)
I insist anonymity in a web portal is an avid vortex. Because of that, Noticiero Digital can even be adding fuel to the fire of civil conflict in the country. And you already saw that besides the daily wonder of the information flow, it also brings damaging consequences.

1 comment

  • naivity?

    You talk about the “U.S.-funded conspiracy against the Venezuelan government” as if such an opinion was the reserve of a bunch of loonies. The fact that the US wants to over throw Chavez is hardly a secret, they were extremely ecstatic when he was briefly thrown out in a right-wing coup a few years ago.

    Is OhmyNews really that much better? The guy has made a fortune paying sub-standard rates for citizen journalism, its just a new form of exploitation on the basis of ‘participation’

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