A media landscape like no other

We're on the same side

We’re on the same side

Venezuelans like to think that our country is like no other, that our issues are different than those in other countries. Chavismo is such a different beast, the quirks of our oil economy so idiosyncratic, we tend to believe that understanding Venezuela requires a distinct framework.

I came to Bonn expecting to find that, in spite of the differences, our issues are the same as those in struggling democracies all over the world.

I was surprised to find out that our first instinct is correct. Our issues are quite  different from those in other places.

The main theme in the first day was the tension between traditional and new media. The consensus seems to be that big media feels they have lost the trust of the public, and social media is building on that failure. For example, the head of Thailand’s largest media group said that, when the military began censoring their newspapers, people on social media were happy, saying that “they deserved it.” The theme seems to be that traditional media is in cahoots with the economic elites.

I kept thinking about our media, our besieged newspapers, our hounded TV journalists. I thought about Teodoro Petkoff and Luis Chataing, and the hundreds of journalists that have left Venezuela because they could not do their job. I find this “conflict” between traditional and new media to be non-existent in our country, since most of us are on the same side.

In the case of Venezuela, there are two groups: social and traditional media fighting for democracy, and traditional media elites in cahoots with (if not outright owned by) our government. The dividing lines in our country are different.

So while there are parallels between, say, the plight of Russian bloggers and what is happening with media in Venezuela, it is still a stretch to conclude the situations are the same. The more I hear about different realities, the more I conclude our idiosyncrasies are alive and well.

15 thoughts on “A media landscape like no other

  1. I believe that if we don’t just try to find out whether we are similar or not, but understand where we are similar and where we differ we can more efficiently explain what’s going on in Venezuela.

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  2. Just as your colleagues ignore pro-elite social media, you ignore the large set of pro-revolutionary social media and community media. Not all of them are just paid off.

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    • I am here with Steven. Even in Venezuela the entities “fighting for democracy” are less kosher than what you think. The only way we might really get a more democratic, fair society in the future is to be aware of that.

      As I said: there are probably more PSFs in the DW event than I would like and I imagine I would also feel a bit annoyed to have to explain to them things that should be obvious by now. But Venezuela is not the centre of the Earth and none of us is informed about all the events on Earth and many people in those places think we should.

      Juan talked about the need to think independently. This is a fair call but it should not be addressed to the left or extreme left only. Perhaps Juan should stay in Europe (or Africa or Asia) for three months – with an open mind and further contact with such groups. I am sure that would be of benefit for him and for those who can learn from him about Venezuela.

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  3. In Venezuela we have three medias , the official media which act as agents of govt misinformation and propaganda, the oppo independent media thats hounded and persecuted for allowing oppo messages to appear in their news and the collaborationist independent media which from fear of govt reprisals block or minimize any news or opinions which are critical of the regime .

    The presence of oppo media is non existent in TV , small in Radio , and maintains a significant presence in newsprint and in the internet or cybernet , That of official media is not so large in newsprint , omnipresent in tv and radio and not so much in cybernet .. The collaborationist ‘look the other way’ media is strong in tv and radio also strong in newsprint and perhaps small to minimal in cybernet.

    I suspect that chavistas favour most of all the official and collaborationist TV and perhaps radio stations and , stay away from opposition media whichever form it takes . while the opposition favour opposition media for news and opinion but flock to the collaborationist TV and RAdio for entertainment .

    The degree of repression is striongest against oppo TV and Radio , Less so against opposition print media but becoming stronger each day that passes and least interfering against oppo cybernet pages.

    Wonder what the rating or popularity ot these three different kinds of media is in each spectrum , is VTV a really much watched channel or the other official channels ?? do a lot of people buy Correo del Orinoco ??

    Govt repression of freedom of expression isnt going to affect the hard core 30 to 40% of the opposition crowd ,. it may help give the hard core regime followers something to feed their already fixed delusions and prejudices , people who even if we had total press freedom wouldnt favour oppo media , and then there is the 20 odd percent of the people who probably are bored by official media but which might listen to oppo messages in todays crisis but which are kept from having easy access to oppo messages by the communicational blockade the govt has created .!! Breaking that blockade or communicational guarimba that affects the 20% loosely committed middle is the oppositions toughest and yet most potentially rewarding task.!!

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  4. “The theme seems to be that traditional media is in cahoots with the economic elites.”
    <<This sounds like a classic chavista complaint, thinking back to 2002.

    "I kept thinking about our media, our besieged newspapers, our hounded TV journalists."

    The situation with newspapers is two-fold: one part is difficulties due to the overall ragged state of the economy, another is government encroachment. Neither is good for traditional media regardless of political bent, for different reasons.
    As for journalists, you probably mean *opposition* journalists. I'm sure chavista journalists are doing just fine (relatively speaking).

    In Venezuela you can expect social media dominated by populist sectors to celebrate the downfall of opposition traditional media just like anywhere else. This surely has occurred with every instance in which an opposition media corporation has been taken over. That downfall has been followed by the rise of "populist" chavista media. It just happens that this process started long ago, and has been led by a socialist government.

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  5. OT:

    It seems that the ultimate insult in Latin America has now become “Facista”. José Mujica, the President of Uruguay invoked this holy epithet to describe the FIFA leadership in comments regarding Suarez’s penalty for biting another player. FIFA surely has a number of obvious failings (even though I believe the Suarez decision to be just and necessary), but “fascist”? What the hell does that have to do with a professional sports organization?

    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/soccer-dirty-tackle/uruguay-s-president-has-harsh-words-for-fifa-223633376.html

    By entering the lexicon as an generalized insult, the word is now losing all of its meaning. I find this troubling, because we need to be able to remember exactly what Fascism is and what resulted from it in history.

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    • I am sure when blokes like Mujita eat bad caraotas and then have a very bad case of diarrhea, they blame it on the fascist black beans. If they hit their finger with a hammer, the hammer is fascist.

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      • And when Pepe Mujica was tortured, Fascists were the ones torturing him. But when Chavismo kills demonstrators, imprisons without recourse to law, or tortures, it is done to Fascists. Which makes it a good thing, in the view of Pepe and his friends. “Depende de quien sea torturado.” to quote a Peronista from long ago.

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  6. Mmmm….

    Maybe you can get them to extrapolate concepts. Our left-right alignments are supposedly reversed, but still mainstream media is beholden by the State and its lackeys (though sometimes forcefully) and we have to rely on ever-smaller papers (not because of poor sale figures, but because of lack of paper), Twitter and blogs.

    Maybe you could draw parallels on the Chavista coverage of “guarimbas” and the coverage of Occupy Wall Street or the Spaniard Indignados.

    Guys like Rupert Murdoch are despised by the Left because News Corp IS an Hegemon Corp, it has had a large share of scandals (News of the World comes to mind http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_of_the_World#Controversies). It also has a track record of partisan reporting (Fox News) and an overall anti-Left bias. So in Venezuela the current media landscape in Venezuela could be described as the State owns a bias-mirrored News Corp on steroids, as VTV is much worse than Fox News, and SIBCI is a huge media corporation with a stronger influence on public discourse than NewsCorp, as it regulates away competing channels, radio stations and papers.

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  7. I’m wondering… as the economy shrinks, and as inflation and scarcity become major concerns across the political spectrum, wouldn’t people become hungrier for good information and become frustrated and annoyed by government propaganda? Am I missing something?

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