The National Assembly, through the Permanent Commission on the Media, commemorated the journalists who, despite the difficulties, persecution and even prison, continue to carry out their work with vocation and professionalism. This is why this parliament continues to fight for freedom of expression and information, for a free and democratic Venezuela.
This is what emerges from the homage in the Day of the Journalist, carried out by the National Assembly’s Permanent Media Commission, via Zoom, a meeting entitled “Reflections on Freedom of Conscience and Truth”, in commemoration of the Day of the Journalist, with the participation of interim President Juan Guaidó, and as a special guest the renowned journalist María del Rosario Rojas, known in the media as Charito Rojas.
The president of the parliamentary body Amelia Belisario said that it was agreed to offer this space to recognize the work of all journalists in their day. “Thanks to the social communicators, thanks for being brave and our recognition to all of you, who risk your lives to keep Venezuelans informed. I am sure that future generations will remember you because only cowards avoid the truth of what is happening”.
For her part, Congresswoman Adriana Pichardo, speaking at this virtual event, congratulated the journalists on their day as “colleagues and friends” who she particularly admires by the work they do daily to inform Venezuelans, despite the difficulties.
She indicated that foreign and Venezuelan journalists have been victims of violations of their human rights by Nicolas Maduro’s regime. “You have an invaluable work, you fight for democracy. You are the voices of thousands and thousands of Venezuelans, you are the eyes of an entire people who urge them to achieve their freedom,” said the parliamentarian.
State Representative Vargas Milagros Ulate expressed her appreciation to the journalists who have been victims of violent attacks. “They look like war journalists, because in Venezuela it is like that. These last two decades we have witnessed the strangulation of the right to freedom. You break the silence to defend the citizen, to practice journalism under a dictatorship is rebellion,” said the parliamentarian from La Guaira.
Carabobo State Representative Angel Alvarez was asked to introduce journalist Charito Rojas, but first he expressed his respect for the profession of journalism and congratulated them: “Blessings to all journalists, I am proud of the work that has been done by the Media Commission. There have been many hard days of disinformation, where the politics of hate are trying to impose themselves. We value, respect and admire all journalists.”
The special guest, journalist Charito Rojas, at the beginning of her speech recounted how the violation of the right to freedom of expression and information began in the country, and recalled several anecdotes from the time of the Caracazo and when Carlos Andrés Pérez was removed from office.
“In the period of democracy, we had access to sources with close information, those people were not pleased, but it was not the same as a retaliation as today, it was just a complaint in the newsroom. This period of democracy was interrupted by the caracazo and by the two attempted coups d’état. By 1999 the media were influencing public policy, they were the influencers of the time,” said journalist Rojas.
She said that the Constituent Assembly was installed with an overwhelming majority of Chavistas and produced a Constitution tailored to Chavez and a controversial law that gave a name to freedom of expression. He added that the opposition reacted to this situation by “getting tougher than ever, initiating a series of protests that had never before been seen in the country.”
This led to the march of April 11th, 2002, which Venezuelans remember today with dignity but with much pain, when they decided to go to Miraflores where they were shot. President Chávez interrupted the audio-visual media reporting with a ‘chain’ (broadcast lockdown), which many media did not pay attention to, because the important news was what was happening near the centre of Caracas, a few meters from Miraflores.
“With the split screen, with the chain on one side and the shots and deaths on the other, it was the rift between the media and Chávez. The before and after of politics and the media is May 27th, 2007 when they turned off the RCTV signal. After that, there have been innumerable cadenas in the audiovisual media”.
She said that after Chávez, Maduro has continued the same scheme to disappear private print media, such as the purchase of media companies by anonymous groups and the definitive closure of media outlets.
She said that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who has witnessed the abuse of the press by the regime, has reported the aggressions against the Venezuelan press, because they are not only violations of the law of journalism, but also of the rights of Venezuelans to receive truthful information.
She assured that journalists today, in order to maintain a window open, that it may still exist, “it is delicate and complicated to say, but we avoid touching on the subject of drug trafficking and the military caste.”
She said that communications professionals are victims of physical aggression, theft of equipment, humiliation, are handcuffed, tied with shoelaces as if they were criminals. “They are given trials with sentences without evidence, they are forbidden to leave the country, among other excesses”.
She also stated that the rudder of public opinion revolves around Fake News. She assured that Venezuela is not in a war situation, but journalists are warriors, where bulletproof vests and gas masks are part of their journalistic equipment.
“These are 20 years of physical and moral attacks, guilty of a media war, of generating paranoia and even of being agents of imperialism. They are prosecuting us and harassing us with the law against hatred, promulgated by the illegitimate Constituent Assembly, which has done nothing so far”.
She pointed out that this is happening in a country where the president of a pro-government party is ordering sanctions against the national media. “There are 135 cases of violation of freedom of information during quarantine.”
Finally, she said that the Venezuelan people have the right to choose which media to watch, which opinion program to listen to or watch. In her opinion, social networks are not media, but information highways. “I would like this session to be a tribute to all our colleagues who fight and who in every corner of the planet make the situation of Venezuela visible,” she ended.
Finally, Representative Biagio Pilieri intervened, sending special greetings to colleague Charito Rojas and congratulating her not only for the day of the journalist, but also because during her speech she walked through the life, passion and death of Venezuela’s history.
“Our recognition goes to the National College of Journalists. Today we must pay homage to the journalists who must be qualified as information heroes, who work with mobility restrictions, remuneration not in accordance with the profession, exposed to censorship and self-censorship, to the worst connectivity in Latin America, to blockades and closure of media outlets,” said Congressman Pilieri.
He was also in charge of naming each of the journalists to whom the National Assembly, through the Media Commission, gave recognition for their hard work and to offer Venezuelans the truth about what is happening in the country, despite the difficulties and the censorship and aggression on the part of Maduro’s regime.