A complicated mix of politics, media and the freedom of both are colliding again in Venezuela after a national court ruled that “for the next four weeks, no newspaper, magazine or weekly of the country can publish images that are violent, bloody, grotesque, whether about crime or not”. This comes as national legislative elections are to be held in the next month and from reaction to the country’s largest newspaper El Nacional publishing an image of an over-filled morgue on its front page last week. After the ruling on Tuesday the paper published blank images with the word “censored” across their front page in protest.
The Guardian reports that “crime regularly tops Venezuelans’ list of concerns. In the absence of complete official figures, which are no longer published, watchdog groups estimate 16,000 people are murdered every year.” Today’s El Nacional led with the question “do you feel that the national feeling of insecurity is to be mostly blamed on the information transmitted by the media?” and they reported that 88% said “no”, their rebuke to the Government’s assertion that “media opponents were using gutter press tactics to sensationalise crime, sell newspapers and damage the country’s socialist revolution”.
I’m sure this all needs to be considered in the complications of local politics, but it is interesting to me that there is a newspaper publishing such shocking images (in whatever context, especially considering the image seems to have been taken last December) and is taking a bold response to censorship. It also amazes me that the censorship could be so ham-fisted, with claims to protect the “psychic and moral integrity of children and adolescents” yet only be in temporary effect until the elections. We’ll see what comes.
Update (8/20): CNN is reporting “Venezuelan judge says newspapers can print violent pictures”: “A judge has lifted an order banning Venezuelan media from printing violent photographs, an official said on state-owned VTV.” Seems like international pressure from press advocates contributed. (via @foodforyoureyes)