The many tentacles of censorship

Just like the mythological Hydra de Lerna, which had seven poisonous heads, the censorship against the freedom of press turns out to be multifaceted, especially within the digital platform, which until now is the widest scenery out there for the dissemination of the ideas of humanity.

The enemies of truth and transparency do reach this space with their different coercive tools. And the most recent examples that illustrate this conspiracy against freedom of expression have occurred in Venezuela, under the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro and in other countries of our continent that are governed by undemocratic presidents.

After having suffocated almost every single independent printed press of that country, which on a daily basis reported and denounced the premeditated bankruptcy of democracy, this government also persecuted the same broadcasters, with the same systematic intolerance, when the migration to the digital sphere happened.

The broadcasters that left the presses, which were up to 52 newspapers and weeklies with a long presence in Venezuela, encountered the same enemy on their Internet platforms, as intermittent blockages or in some cases, permanent bans that prevented users from accessing their pages.

The autocratic government owns the monopoly of blocking and filtering any content that aims to disseminate denounces against said government, through the digital versions of the asphyxiated newspapers, forcing even private providers of telephone and cable services to submit to their restrictive rules.

Censorship begins with a denial of services to users, making it difficult for citizens to find content that isn’t at all biased by any official censorship.

And while the digital newspapers struggle to survive, the government also uses another of the heads of the Hydra de Lerna to set up a parallel network to the digital media with an official line, pretending that the digital space is nourished by independent options, although in the end, the aim is to impose unidirectional communicative hegemony.

Censorship reaches radio and cable television. According to a report by the Press and Society Institute of Venezuela, another way of censorship is the “no response” connection that prevents future users from accessing the web portals that operate in this country, a machination on which private companies appear compromised, such as Digitel, which heads censorship examples with more than 70 percent of cases of blockages to the detrimented Movilnet and Movistar users, among others.

These ways of digital censorship aren’t only found in Venezuela. They’re manifested in other Latin American countries with autocratic regimes or with equal vocation and hence the importance of the free press promoting and fighting to impose the principles of the “Declaration on Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age” approved by the Inter-American Press (SIP) at its latest general assembly in Salta, Argentina, last October.

Through this Declaration, the right of the public to access the Internet openly and neutrally is widely defended, and all ways, shapes or forms of censorship exercised by state or private actors are condemned, such as straight-forward blocking content, monitoring accounts, harassment, campaigns of discredit and other types of violence or harmful interferences against users, journalists and the media. All of this is actually what happens today under the dictatorship of Venezuela.

– Translated from Spanish by Randy Rodriguez.