Today, Venezuelans celebrate “National Journalist Day.”
It’s a day to recognize journalists, photographers, designers, videographers, editors, documentarists, anchors, correspondents, and keyboard warriors. Today, anyone who shares the news through newspapers, TV, social media or email, is a journalist. Whether it’s a college graduate or an everyday citizen, what matters is the daily task of elevating the news and informing the public. In my opinion, these people are world correspondents.
But as Venezuelans celebrate this day, they also mourn it.
For more than 20 years, Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro’s regime have silenced thousands of Venezuelans for expressing their discontent and thoughts on a crisis that has ruined the country. Amongst the many battles Venezuelans face everyday, one of them is for the right to freedom of press and speech. In more than two decades, Chavismo has managed to dismantle the country’s private media industry. Chavez’s first attack was the closure of the private channel Radio Caracas Television in 2007. Their reportage of the harsh realities in Venezuela made them an easy target. From there, any media report that didn’t favor Chavez was to be silenced.
Since 2013, the year that Nicolas Maduro took power, until now, more than 2,265 attacks against freedom of speech have been registered by the National Syndicate of Press Workers. “This makes Nicolas Maduro the first abuser of the right to information and freedom of speech in the democratic history of Venezuela,'' declared Marco Ruiz of NSPW. Approximately five years ago there were 90 print media in existence. Now that number has been cut down to thirty. In the beginning, these attacks were orchestrated by government forces. Today, colectivos (pro-regime militia) take matters into their own hands and attack journalists with full impunity. As the regime maintains power of armed forces and colectivos, attacks on the media and freedom of speech will only continue.
Our job at Ask A Venezuelan is to be a voice for those who have been oppressed and silenced by this regime.
We thank all of those who continue to shed light on Venezuela’s crisis and help us in this mission.
by Pedro Correa, Marlon Correa, Marcella Bustillos, Ambar Marcus.