Knight Center
Knight Center


Twitter confirms that images of unrest in Venezuela are being blocked in the country

Nicolás Maduro’s government continues to repress the news media in Venezuela. A week after NTN24’s signal was cut mid-transmission and work permits for CNN journalists were revoked, Twitter confirmed to BBC Mundo that the images of the protests published through its service are being blocked in Venezuela.

March toward the justice palace in Maracaibo. Photo: Feb. 18 2014, via Wikimedia Commons.

Nu Wexler, spokesperson for Twitter, told BBC Mundo that they think the government is blocking their content since those affected have claimed the problem applies exclusively to connections established by Cantv, the main internet provider in Venezuela. The company, which provides more than 90 percent of internet connections in the country, has denied the accusation.

According to La Nación, the information blackout is the worst Venezuelans have experienced in decades: private news channels are censoring themselves and don’t publish information that conflicts with official versions. Meanwhile, public channels echo the government's voice. Globovision, a news channel that had been a long-time government critic and was recently bought by entities close to the government, had several journalists resign after the channel's self-censorship during last week’s protests. 

With media self-restriction, Twitter is one of the few windows citizens opposed to the Venezuelan government have to share and communicate information the media won’t show, although while the information spreads without being centralized, it comes with the risk of being unverified and unverifiable.

La Nación published that media self-censorship stems from a law in Venezuela that prohibits the justification of hate and violence, which generates problems because the language of the law leaves the interpretation of what constitutes as “hate and violence” to those in charge.

“They will call me a dictator, it doesn’t matter. But I will toughen the laws to end the sensational press and propaganda that feeds violence,” said Maduro, justifying the hostile treatment of the press. In the last few weeks, Maduro accused the international press of acting against the government and instigating a civil war.

The Inter-American Press Society (IAPA) condemned the repression of the media in the country, which shows in the hostile treatment of the foreign press. According to data published by Venezuela's National College of Journalism, the National Union of Press Workers and the non-governmental organization Espacio Público, 55 of 61 reported cases of press freedom violations are assaults against journalists who were covering the protests all over the country.

According to Infobae, the information blackout has been strongly criticized by the Argentine Association of Journalistic Entities (ADEPA) and its counterparts in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru.

Since the attempted coup d’etat in 2002, when former president Hugo Chavez was temporarily removed from office, the government has been steadily increasing its pressure over the country's media outlets. Radio Caracas Television ceased broadcasting in 2008 after Chavez refused to renew its operation license, accusing it of having instigated the coup, La Nación said. Several other commercial radio stations closed as well, and were replaced with “neutral” broadcasters without an informative angle. In the last few months, several newspapers were forced to close due to the lack of printing paper in Venezuela.

BBC Mundo published a list of ways to avoid internet censorship by the providers in Venezuela, and RSF published an open letter to Maduro condemning the endangerment of the people’s right to information.

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