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Venezuela's Information Minister to foreign media: Go to hell!

Editorial | El Universal

03.03.05 | The verbal, legal, political and even economic struggle against the media waged by the current government has gone through several stages. The first stage, targeted El Universal managers and journalists, was succeeded by a more comprehensive stage. Then, the media and journalists were called a number of names, from wage-earners to stateless, and companies were linked to global plots and dirty tricks campaign.

Concomitantly, confrontation escalated with storming into the premises of newspapers, and radio and TV stations and ignoring the warnings of international organizations. Journalists were attacked when doing their work in the street.

Lately, a new chase has emerged. It is the use of courts and other bodies to dampen media actions. Despite government attempts, journalists tasks have been always the same -to find and air the truth.

Reference is made to regulations such as the Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law. This rule was originally intended to protect children, adolescents and the whole society. As a matter of fact, it has cornered broadcasters to stiff guidelines that restrict information and minimize the possibility of giving room for opinion. The obvious, undeniable result has been self-censorship in most media.

Curiously, over the last few days, top government officials resolved to lash out at a respectable group of journalists who had not been the target so far. On the contrary, foreign correspondents had enjoyed a very special treatment by the president and, of course, by ministers. Chávez even said that he ordered press conferences exclusively for them because they were reliable and truthful. Local journalists were not invited to these meetings between the government and the foreign media.

For some top political reason, the government made up its mind and sent them to hell through Minister of Communication and Information Andrés Izarra. Meanwhile, the local media were disavowed as irrecoverable. "Not even a letter," he said.

That is clear. This is the cost of telling the unofficial truth. The truth the government wants.

Translated by Conchita Delgado

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