The true situation in Venezuela is known worldwide today. Yet, for those who don’t live in the Country and are not familiar with the idiosyncratic attitude towards open communication of the Venezuelan people, understanding such a complex situation is far from simple. For this reason, it is necessary to provide a brief overview that focuses on the response of the world of communication.
The years of “Chavism” and “Madurism”. It’s important to understand that, during the long period of “Chavism” and “Madurism”, news media have always played a leading role, both in the national context and in the international one: starting from the famous “por ahora” called by Lieutenant Colonel Chávez in his attempted coup of February 4, 1992, carried out first through subservience to State-owned media outlets, then by shutting down RCTV television network, the first in the country, including the imposition of self-censorship to news media to avoid administrative sanctions, the lack of paper to produce newspapers, the persecution of journalists, Venezuelans and foreign correspondents alike. However, most importantly, until 2016 the Government has been able to carry out its work of self-promotion at an international level:
while the Country was spiralling into extreme poverty, which started with Chavez’ rise to power on February 4 1992, outside its national borders it was perceived as a Country receiving huge amounts of money as a result of high oil prices.Economic aids to other countries and the attention given to these gestures bought their complacency, while in Venezuela the misery and persecution of those who had different ideas than those imposed continued to surge.
Free journalism has grown with the passing of years. Starting in 2007, when RCTV television network was closed, journalism in Venezuela began to organize itself in a different way, marked by a new level of information and communication technologies. Publications thus started to be released in digital formats, which ensured a certain amount of freedom by sidestepping censorship. Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and many more social networks and media outlets became a meeting hub that brought together professional journalists with citizens’ journalism.
Starting in 2013, a major effort has been put into place to train citizenry as street reporters.
In this respect, the work carried out by the Centro Gumilla, run by the Society of Jesus, by Radio Fe y Alegría and, inter alia, by journalist Luis Carlos Díaz (@LuisCarlos in Twitter), is commendable. Independent journalism combined its efforts with NGOs striving to show the real face of the country, notably the Committee for the Families of Victims (@COFAVIC), the Criminal Court (@ForoPenal), CECODAP, and many more. A special role was played also by the Department for the Pastoral Care of Communication of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference that created a growing number of networks for support to information and ecclesial endeavours, along with efforts aimed at the identification of joint solutions and to occasion a change in mentality and understanding of the Country’s future.
“Small giants.” This major undertaking is now reaching its high point at a time when the credibility of the ecclesial institution serves as a form of support to the theory that the National Assembly is fully legitimized by the Constitution, thereby discrediting the official deceptive narrative designed to support Maduro’s permanence in power. Confronted with a pro-governmental communication machine, that put into practice skilfully planned theories for the ideological indoctrination of the people via media platforms, the advocates of the truth emerge like small giants whose distinctively loud voices are illustrating the true political, social, economic and legal scenario of a Country seeking changeover and freedom.
(*) President of SIGNIS – Venezuela’s Catholic Communication Association