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Blog Carnival: Venezuela, Freedom of Expression on the Internet – A Summary

After reading the participating posts for the Blog Carnival: Venezuela, Freedom of Expression on the Internet [es] it is clear that while within the scope of traditional media there might be attempts to curtail freedom of expression, on the Internet the picture is very different because Venezuelans have launched themselves into the world of social media. Through their home connections or their BlackBerry phones, they talk, express their views and ideas without any major restrictions.

But, what is a “Blog Carnival”? It is a virtual event where a host blog, Global Voices in Spanish in this case, calls on other blogs to write about a specific subject. The Carnival usually has a set time frame and once it is over a summary post of the participating posts is published. That is what follows.

We begin this summary with someone from home. Laura Vidal, Global Voices author for Venezuela, published a post in her blog Sacando la lengua (Sticking out Your Tongue) where, apart from inviting other bloggers to participate in the Carnival, reflects on what Venezuelans write -or do not write- on the Internet. Among other things, she says [es] :

¿Hasta qué punto refleja la blogósfera de Venezuela la realidad del país? ¿Sobre qué conversan los venezolanos que escriben en línea? … la política, que desde hace tanto convertimos en chismes comentados con bases tan profundas como el rumor se ha vuelto el punto central de una dinámica de diálogos y discursos prestados en las que la comunicación corta la comunicación. Así sale la pregunta ¿Sobre qué no escriben los venezolanos? ¿Llegará la censura sin necesidad del piloto automático? … ¿De dónde sale lo que decimos? ¿Pensamos lo que publicamos? La población venezolana alucina con las innovaciones tecnológicas y adora comunicarse ¿Pero qué se dice?

Up to what point does the Venezuelan blogosphere reflect the reality of the country? What do Venezuelans that write online discuss?…politics, something we have turned into gossip with bases as deep as rumors has become the hub for dynamic dialogues and borrowed speeches where communication breaks communication. The question arises: what are Venezuelans not writing about? Will censorship arrive without the need of an automatic pilot?…Where does what we say come from? Do we think about what we publish? The Venezuelan population gets excited about technological innovations and loves to communicate, but what do they say?

Flor Peña, who blogs on Twitter Adictisimos, tries to answer these and other questions about the behavior of Venezuelans. She does so in a general way including some information, in her post “Complete Free Will Through the Web 2.0″ [es]:

con la llegada del internet la facilidad de comunicar y transmitir información se ha vuelto infinita, los límites parecen no existir y depende de cada individuo el determinar el uso que le hará al servicio … Pueden ver las Estadisticas en Venezuela de usuarios en internet AQUI … (pero) antes debe haber confianza para llevar a cabo una acción, sea cual sea. En el conocimiento colectivo siempre hallaremos la razon del porque el mundo es ovoide y no totalmente redondo…

with the advent of the Internet the ease to communicate and share information has become infinite, the limits seem to be non-existent and it depends on each individual to determine their use of this service… You can see the Statistics on Venezuela about Internet users HERE…(but) you should have the confidence to carry out an action, whatever it may be. Through collective knowledge we will always find the reason why the world is not completely round…

Sol, from the blog Tengo que decirlo (I have to say it), travels on an introspective journey to find answers to why we express ourselves and what can constitute a limiting factor of our reality and our freedom, in her post “Journey to the Depth of My Inner Self” [es]:

Los gobernantes, los políticos de oficio, que se cierran alrededor de sus creencias y dogmas se constituyen en propietarios de una verdad que creen debe ser única e indivisible, no contentos con ello en algunos casos pretenden imponer ideologías caducas que mutilan la libertad de pensamiento y nos obligan a padecer el abismo de la exclusión … el avance tecnológico y el sometimiento a la velocidad de la información que se sucede a cada instante de nuestra vida obliga a reflexionar sobre nuestro ritmo vital. “Es un tesoro vivir sin prisa” comenta Antonio Más en su espacio virtual y es demasiado cierto, la mayoría de nosotros en ocasiones tenemos esa sensación de que nos llevan empujados y no hay nada mejor que darnos el chance de disfrutar del libre albedrío.

The rulers, politicians in office, that close themselves up in their beliefs and dogmas become owners of the truth which they think should be one and indivisible, unhappy with this in some cases they try to impose outdated ideologies that cripple the freedom of thought and force us to suffer the abyss of exclusion.. technological progress and the submission to speed of information that is happening constantly in our lives forces us to reflect on our pace of life. “It is a treasure to live without haste” commented Antonio Más in his virtual space and it is true, the majority of us sometimes have that feeling that we are being pushed and there is nothing better than to give us the chance to enjoy free will.

Dulce Penélope is a blogger from Crónicas de una Mujer Solterísima en Caracas (Chronicles of a Very Single Woman in Caracas) and in a didactic post called “Implicit Challenges for Citizens in Freedom of Expression as a Human Right” [es], after presenting some general matters relating to freedom of expression, the access to public information and citizen journalism, she concludes that one must educate others to reach a democratic citizenry.

De nada sirve que el ciudadano conozca que debe defender la libertad de expresión, el acceso a la información pública, el acceso y uso a Internet, debe ser conciente que es necesario recibir una adecuada formación sobre estos temas, no solo a nivel jurídico sino conocer que esta ocurriendo en otros países en torno a estas temáticas. Si bien organizaciones civiles en Venezuela como Espacio Público y Provea han hecho esfuerzos al respecto, es necesario que las universidades y en las comunidades los ciudadanos fomenten la importancia en la educación para la ciudadanía democrática, que preservar la democracia no se limita sólo al voto, al contrario el ciudadano tiene en sus manos herramientas vitales que le permiten fiscalizar la gestión de los organismo públicos, además la comunidad es la única barrera que puede frenar de forma contundente las limitaciones y censuras que un gobierno pueda imponer para frenar el libre ejercicio de la libertad de expresión.

There is no point in citizens knowing that they have to defend freedom of expression, the access to public information, the access and use of the Internet, they must know that it is necessary to receive adequate training on these issues, not only on a judicial level but to know what is happening in other countries on these issues. While civil organizations in Venezuela like Espacio Público and Provea have made efforts in this regard, it is necessary that universities and communities encourage the importance of education for a democratic citizenry, that persevering democracy is not limited to voting, on the contrary citizens have in their hands vital tools that allow them to control the management of public organizations, also the community is the only barrier that can slow down in a strong way the limitations and censorship that a government might impose to slow down the free exercise of freedom of expression.

An event took place in Venezuela during the Blog Carnival which determined what some participant posts focused on: the ban on violent images ruled by a tribunal in Caracas. The blog Colegio Nacional de Periodistas seccional Costa Oriental del Lago, sent us this post [es] for the Carnival:

La junta directiva de la seccional Costa Oriental del Lago del Colegio Nacional de Periodistas (CNP COL) rechazó la decisión judicial que prohíbe la publicación de imágenes consideradas violentas en los medios impresos venezolanos, a la vez que aseguró que la medida podría repercutir en la autocensura, en el cercenamiento de derechos fundamentales, como el de expresión y el de la ciudadanía a estar informada, y en el peor de los casos, cierre de empresas de comunicación.

The board of the branch Costa Oriental del Lago from the National Association of Journalists (CNP COL) rejected the judicial decision that prohibits the publication of images deemed violent in Venezuelan print media, and at the same time assured that the measure could cause self-censorship, the removal of fundamental rights, such as speech and of the public to be informed, and in the worst case, [the measure could cause] the closure of media companies.

Lycette Scott from El Blog de la Negra shows her deep concern about the measure and reflects on the real motives and implications of the measure, and on the attitudes of politicians, in the post “Freedom of Expression?” [es]:

¿es posible dejar de publicar noticias sobre violencia en un país donde cada día hay muertes violentas producto del hampa común y en muchos casos también a mano de la policía? pero más allá de eso ¿es posible cumplir con la prohibición sin menoscabar la libertad de expresión? … El problema de fondo aquí no es la foto, no es la situación de la morgue, no es la inseguridad, no es la indiferencia gubernamental ante todas estas situaciones, no es que los chamos se afecten sicológicamente … el problema en definitiva es un gobierno y una ciudadanía que se sienten incómodos cuando se les ponen las verdades en la cara, porque tanto a la sociedad como a los políticos les encanta ignorar lo que sucede a su alrededor, es más chevere y más cómodo saber que las cosas suceden pero hacerse los locos

Is it possible to stop publishing news about violence in a country where there are violent deaths every day as a product of common criminals and in many cases in the hands of the police? but beyond that, is it possible to comply with the ban without impairing freedom of expression?…The underlying problem is not the photo, it is not the situation in the morgue, it is not insecurity, it is not the government's indifference to all these situations, it is not the children that are affected psychologically…the problem is ultimately a government and a citizenry that are uncomfortable when the truth is put in front of them, because society and politicians love to ignore what happens around them, it is cooler and more comfortable to know that things happen but pretend they don't.

Euped Rodríguez also posted on the issue in the blog Escritos sin papel (Writings without paper). The post “Freedom of Expression and the Internet: New Challenges” [es], aside from informing us about the realm of freedom of expression on the Internet in Venezuela compared to the rest of the world, points out that:

Con una nueva esfera pública en la cual miles de personas expresan opiniones, información, reflexiones y análisis a través de la red, (se) ha generado una comunicación más transparente, directa y democrática que se está efectuando en el país y en diferentes partes del mundo. Una esfera pública que favorece al desarrollo de la democracia permitiendo que cada persona sea participe en los distintos hechos y toma de decisiones de una comunidad, región o país. Sin embargo, si dicho espacio es restringido se rompería con uno de los principios fundamentales de vivir en un país libre … Aquí en Venezuela estamos en una constante guerra de información, existen dos bandos: oficialismo y opositores. Cada uno favorece a su lado, utilizan las herramientas tecnológicas para defender lo que creen. Cada usuario de internet se ha dedicado a funcionar como portavoz de información, de generar contenidos.

With a new public sphere where thousands of people express their opinions, information, thoughts and analysis through the web, it has generated a more transparent, direct and democratic communication that is taking place in the country and in different parts of the world. A public sphere that favors the development of democracy allowing that each person participate in the different events and take decisions in a community, region or country, However, if this space is restricted it would break one of the fundamental principles of living in a free country…Here in Venezuela we are in a constant information war, where there are two sides: the ruling party and the opposition. They each favor their side, they use technological tools to defend what they believe. Each Internet user has been dedicated to serve as a spokesperson for information, to generate content.

Finally, in the blog Anotaciones al borde (Side notes), Kira Kariakin, its author, published the post “Rotten Town” [es], where she talks about the ongoing violence in Caracas and the context under which the aforementioned prohibition was set, and concludes that:

Aún contamos con este territorio de nadie y de todos de internet para poder acceder y difundir las informaciones que intentan ser acalladas por el gobierno en el mundo analógico. Han habido amagos de censura y amenazas con leyes improcedentes y punitivas hasta ahora sin mucha factibilidad de aplicación. En este caso, la caducidad de los medios tradicionales se cancela en los digitales porque la gente puede acceder a los contenidos, y difundirlos viralmente por mucho tiempo. Ello no es fácil de controlar. Videos como el de OneChot, los de Cuatro, la risa de Izarra en CNN y la primera plana de muerte de El Nacional quedan en la red para la reflexión.

We still have this land that belongs to no one and everyone, the Internet, to access and share information the government and the analog world tries to silence. There have been threats of censorship with unfair and punitive laws so far without much feasibility of implementation. In this case, the revocation of traditional media is canceled out by digital [media] because people can access content, and share it for a long time. That is not easy to control. Videos like the one of OneChot, the ones from Cuatro, Izarra on CNN and the front page showing death in El Nacional will remain online [for users] to reflect on.

We are very grateful to all those who participated, maybe taking time off other activities, and getting over fears, real or otherwise, that are perceived in the Venezuelan blogosphere. We also thank those who helped us spread the word about the Carnival in their blogs, and Twitter users that re-tweeted our annoucement. I also want to thank those who took the time to read this post and enjoy some very diverse blogs. I strongly recommend a trip through all of them, a great sample of the Venezuelan blogosphere that hopefully will not keep going unnoticed by the general public. See you in the next Carnival!

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