The drip-drip of self-censorship

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How about a magic trick? Ultimas Noticias will make a critical press article disappear… Ta-daa! It’s… it’s gone.

In recent years, self-censorship has become commonplace in Venezuelan media, and more so in the outlets controlled by the private arm of the communicational hegemony (HegemonCorp).

It’s been more than a year since Cadena Capriles, the largest group of newspapers in the country, was bought by a still-mysterious investor(s). However, its swift change of name (to Grupo Ultimas Noticias), along with its changing editorial line and personnel, have been a much-too-public affair. Even its recent changes right at the top have given people pause.

And yet it seems as though we haven’t seen the worst of it, because last week alone there were at least three detailed cases of changes in content without the consent of the journalists that wrote the articles, according to this note from the National Press Workers’ Union (SNTP).

In the photo above you can see how an article about one Petare woman’s search for antiophidic serum (one form of snake venom antidote) took her to five hospitals without any luck. The article was supposed to appear in the July 17th edition, but instead a report about the opening of the BusMargarita system took its place.

Earlier in the week, a related story about the dire situation of the Luis Razetti hospital in Caracas was changed without the writer’s consent. Originally, the article had the headline “Complaints about lack of supplies in the Razetti Hospital”, but Ultimas Noticias’ editor Eleazar Díaz Rangel suggested including the response of the hospital’s director (“Complaints about lack of supplies, but hospital director denies it”). The writer accepted this suggestion (grudgingly, we presume).

Yet the surprise came when the final headline suddenly turned into “(The Razetti) Hospital’s endowment of supplies is guaranteed”, burying the complaints that suggested quite the contrary. You can see the full changes in the picture below.

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On the left you can see from top to bottom the original headline written by the reporter, the proposed compromise and finally the one unilaterally pushed by Ultimas Noticias’ management, which made the print edition (seen at the right).

Changes were not just limited to notes that would make the central government look bad. They also took down what looked to be a harmless piece on the choices in Caracas for children who are now on school vacation. Why? Because there was no mention of the activities offered by Libertador Municipality, the only one in the city controlled by the ruling party. Funny thing is… the reporter tried to contact them but got no response. That wasn’t enough of an excuse for Mr. Diaz Rangel, who killed the piece.

But Grupo Ultimas Noticias isn’t the only one pushing self-censorship: Barquisimeto newspaper El Informador is under public scrutiny over the resignation of two journalists in the last two months due to “internal pressures”.

Self-censorship is becoming the norm. Instead of politics or issues, sports and celebrities are now the priorities in both the airwaves and the newsstands – the only topics people can discuss freely, it seems. That’s why I can’t buy El Universal’s new head Jesús Abreu Anselmi’s pledge for a little trust (and seems he broke it already). Sir, just tell us who the real owners of the newspaper are. This Epalisticia charade isn’t flying. At least some, including fellow blogger Alek Boyd,are doing their best to find out…

One thought on “The drip-drip of self-censorship

  1. Why do you call this self-censorship? Self-censorship is when people are afraid to speak/write/print the truth themselves. When radio stations drop political news for fear of license revocation, that’s self-censorship.

    Diaz Rangel isn’t censoring himself. It’s very plain that he was installed to control the content of Ultimas Noticias in the interests of the chavernment.


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