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A permanent muzzle on Venezuela's media

By Veneconomy

11.11.04 - This week, most of the opposition parties left the technical round table that was seeking ways to settle the differences over the Gag Law. Faced with the government side’s refusal to listen to any proposals, the opposition benches –with the exception of Proyecto Venezuela- stopped participating in the discussion group chaired by Minister Andrés Izarra.

This group, made up so far by representatives of the block for change and the opposition, was formed with the idea of seeking common ground for drafting the Bill on Social Responsibility for Radio and Television before its second discussion in the National Assembly.

The decision to withdraw was an initiative of Primero Justicia promoted by Deputy Gerardo Blyde and later backed by the majority of the opposition parties –AD, Cope, MAS and Causa R.

The point is that if the true intention was to come up with a law that would regulate violence and sex on radio and television, agreements on practical issues would have soon be reached. But that is not the true purpose of this bill, which is why dialog is impossible.

The audacity of the government reached its limit when Minister Izarra imposed the mandate from Miraflores and they used steamroller tactics to force the bill through with no revisions or amendments of any kind.

And worse is to come, when the television stations have to hand over at least 33% of the program time to “independent” producers, to be regulated and controlled by the State through Conatel.

The opposition’s decision to withdraw from the technical round table turned out to be yet another futile gesture. As happened in the recent regional elections, the government played down the importance of this decision, and the MVR has announced that by the end of the year Venezuelans will have the new law as a Christmas present.

Deputy Francisco Solórzano (MVR) made the regime’s intention quite clear when he warned that the owners of the media “will not split the screen again,” in a clear reference to the mechanism used by the television stations to show viewers what was happening on April 11 while the President was giving a nationwide, networked broadcast. So, as everyone suspected, the business of “protecting children and adolescents” is no more than a ruse.

Now, under the law, Venezuelans will not be able to voice their opinion or learn of public opinions that do not have the blessing of the regime.

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