Venezuelan media workers march, new national paper announced

by Tamara Pearson, Venezuelanalysis

CARACAS - On Saturday, to mark the Day of the Journalist, media workers both for and against the Venezuelan government marched in separate marches in Caracas. President Hugo Chavez also announced the creation of a new national paper.

For over 40 years Venezuelans have celebrated the Day of the Journalist on June 27th. On that day in 1818, the Orinoco Post first went to print to report on the political and military achievements in the struggle for independence and combat the misinformation of the Spanish Crown-run paper, La Gaceta de Caracas. In 1964, Garcia Ponce, a parliamentarian for the Communist Party, proposed from jail (where he was being accused of military rebellion) that the Day of the Journalist be celebrated on that day.

In Caracas on Saturday, in a march called by the National Council of Communicators, thousands of journalists and government supporters marched against media terrorism. Many speakers and participants also spoke of the need for a new participatory model of communication.

After marching for hours through the center of the capital, marchers handed in a document to the Public Prosecutor's office. The document denounced the attempts by private media in Venezuela to destabilize the country.

Speaking outside the office, journalist Maria Matute likened Venezuela's private media magnates to large estate owners, saying they have over 80% of the radio spectrum, thanks to concessions granted to them by the Venezuelan government. She spoke against the "impunity of communication companies" and for a democratization of the media which can "only be achieved through consciousness, organization, and action by the Venezuelan people."

The march also went to the Ministry of Communications and Information, where marchers expressed the need to strengthen and promote alternative and community based media.

The minister for communications and information, Blanca Eekhout said, "The international [media] campaigns against our revolution have been going for 10 years. We are the alternative during a time of capitalist crisis... when that model is falling apart we are obliged to make socialism visible."

"New communication is necessary. It's essential to take communication away from the big transnationals and distribute it amongst the peoples of the world," Eekhout said.

Meanwhile, a smaller opposition march, broadcast live nationally, demanded freedom of expression. The march was called by the National Journalism College, an opposition media association. Some marchers wore red gags around their mouths.

Speaking to the press, the governor of the Zulia state, Pablo Perez, the mayor of Chacao, Emilio Grateron, and the opposition legislator Ismael Garcia, all accused the Venezuelan government of violating the right to freedom of expression.

Venezuelan private media also reported that "more than 30 cities internationally protested against ‘gagging'". Organizers reported that they called the protest via the internet, and that in Miami, over 60 people protested in front of the Venezuelan consulate there. Speakers spoke against the "possible closure of [opposition TV station] Globovision."

New National Paper

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, during a ceremony to award journalism prizes, announced that the Orinoco Post will start circulating again as a national daily paper, "with a commitment to not deceive the readers, to create consciousness... and values."

The exact date when the first issue will come out isn't known yet, but Chavez said a team is working on the project.

The week preceding the Day of the Journalist was the government-proclaimed Week of Artillery of Thought. There were daily forums across the country, TV programs around the theme, an international conference in Caracas of journalists, and various other workshops, activities, and film screenings organized by local groups and by the Ministry for Culture and the Ministry for Communication and Information. The Ministry for Culture also handed out copies of the first edition of the Orinoco Post in major plazas around the country.

Journalist Jose Rangel said the massive participation in the march on Saturday showed that communication had passed from being controlled by elites to being "of the people."

"The new type of communication was born here to remove the oligarchy from power and this is the legacy that we have to depend on in this singular moment in history," he said.

article originally published at Venezuelanalysis.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey