What sorts of the stories is the Internet good for?
Complex, multifaceted ones. Ones where lots of smart people have differing opinions. Like the crackdown on independent media in Venezuela by President Hugo Chavez.
It seems pretty obvious that Chavez shutting down RCTV, the country’s oldest independent television station, and replacing it with pro-government propoganda is a bad thing. Now the government is threatening Globovision, another independent station, accusing it of inciting anti-Chavez violence.
But this story is a bit more complicated. RCTV broadcast 64 days of anti-Chavez coverage during the 2002 general strike, including ads encouraging people to stop paying taxes. Chavez has accused the station of supporting the coup that briefly ousted him from power later that year. When Chavez regained power, none of the private stations reported the story – RCTV ran the film “Pretty Woman”. On the Media’s typically excellent story on the situation focuses primarily on critics of RCTV, assuming that most listeners will naturally be critical of anti-speech activities. One of the most interesting critics featured in the story is Andre Izarra, who runs pro-Chavez TeleSUR… but who formerly served as news director for RCTV.
Xeni Jardin with BoingBoing ran a post of a link suggested by a reader, a compelling video of RCTV employees wearing gags. Other BoingBoing readers sent comments critical of RCTV, and Xeni posted a followup piece this evening featuring their concerns about RCTV, reasons why reasonable people might support the station’s “shutdown”, and a reminder that the station has been removed from broadcast, but can still broadcast via cable and the Internet. (Broadcast is still where the majority of advertising revenues are in Venezuela.)
That’s what we’ve seen at Global Voices as well – a great deal of strong opinion on both sides of the story. Luis Carlos Diaz translates multiple comments from a 2000-post thread on blog directory to2blogs.com, both in support of RCTV and challenging their past actions. I’m very interested to see whether opinion shifts if Chavez goes after Globovision as aggressively as he’s gone after RCTV.
I don’t know what I think. I’m inclined to be deeply suspicious of any action that takes voices off the air. But there are some people who’ve got good reasons to be very concerned about RCTV’s actions in the past, and I’m glad I get to hear from them as well. Thank you, Internet. (Which, by the way, is the only way I get to hear On the Media.)
Luis Carlos also has some powerful photos from yesterday’s protest.
Any action against RCTV should have gone through the legal channels. 3000 employees cannot be punished if the president of a TV station ordered not to cover what was happening on those days. So the decission cannot lay solely on the will of the president. Also the other 2 TV stations that also provided with toons and movies on those days, the same 27 of may were granted with the renewal of the concession for 20 years more, after they have low down to zero their criticism.
It is not just and administrative matter.
You are right to be suspicious.
And you are right also to thank for internet, however we may stop in Venezuela to have free access on it as soon as the government completes the nationalization of the major phone company who controls de access in the following weeks.
I’m not sure I subscribe to the “internet at its best theory”. Whichever side you’re on, you have to admit that the first boing boing story was extremely one sided view of a complex debate and the writer rightly posted the other view after reader feedback.
Obviously that’s a good thing but it makes you wonder how many other stories have been posted on such influential sites where there isn’t enough “decenting user noise” to persuade the writers to show the other point of view. This is particularly true on sites which have no commenting facilities.
It’s just lucky that Charvez has plenty of supporters worldwide who have internet access!