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Marcelino Bisbal: "It all boils down to censorship"

"We are moving towards communication dictatorship," the media expert says

Media expert Marcelino Bisbal expects international agencies to keep track (File photo)
Saturday February 22, 2014  12:00 AM
According to media expert Marcelino Bisbal the time has come to do away with euphemisms and technical terms applied to the Venezuelan reality and call a spade a spade. There is no doubt in his mind that media ‘hegemony' by the State boils down to downright censorship. "We are moving towards communication dictatorship," he says. The director of Mass Communication Postgraduate courses at Andrés Bello Catholic University (UCAB) voices his concern about the general tenor of the news media's coverage of the latest student protests.

"This government uses any available means to instill fear in both media owners and journalists, thus generating the perverse mechanism of self-imposed censorship," he says.

- Why is it important for any country that the news media can be able to cover street protests and their aftermath?

- As information providers, the news media perform an important function reporting the news and events affecting society. In this regard, they are mediating agents between these events and the different audiences. The only way for audiences (be them newspaper readers, television viewers or Internet users) to learn about reality, albeit a mediated one, is through the communication products broadcasted by the different news media. So the news media owe the duty to the public to cover street protests and their aftermath as these are events affecting society, with the audience being left to draw its own conclusions.

- Is it true that reporting street protests creates a multiplier effect?

- This claim is belied by the most recent theories resulting not from quick and ready insight but from research in the field of communication sociology. Receivers have the critical capacity to resemanticize news media contents against their own referential frame. In this regard, communication products of any kind are subjected to mediation by both the news media outlet and receivers.

- What's your take on news media coverage of recent events, particularly of marches staged by students and citizens on Wednesday, February 12?

- There is no doubt in my mind that's an act of censorship. When the government took to Twitter –not the most appropriate channel to do it, by the way- to reprimand international media outlets for "inciting violence and being apologists for crime," it is in a way exerting pressure to achieve self-imposed censorship and imposing downright censorship. It is an unacceptable, unconstitutional act, detrimental to the rights to information and communication. On the other hand, there is the blackout kept, out of fear or intimidation, by the national news media (all TV stations and most radio broadcasters). What's then their function as news media outlets? They should revise themselves and clearly define whom they serve.

- What would you recommend that the uninformed, average citizen do?

- My recommendation would be for people to be attentive to developments and events, and look for the most reliable ways to be informed; also, not to repeat rumors as facts. Social networking provides a flow of information that can be used on these occasions, provided the informants are reliable. Furthermore, you have to be willing and ready to defend freedom of expression, freedom of communication and the right to information. In the absence of these rights you won't be able to raise awareness or make widely known that the rest of the rights have been removed. This is why freedom of expression is said to be an all-encompassing fundamental right that includes all the other rights.

Translated by Sancho Araujo