What sorts of the stories is the Internet good for?
Complex, multifaceted ones. Ones where lots of smart people have differing opinions. Like the crackdown on independent media in Venezuela by President Hugo Chavez.
It seems pretty obvious that Chavez shutting down RCTV, the country’s oldest independent television station, and replacing it with pro-government propoganda is a bad thing. Now the government is threatening Globovision, another independent station, accusing it of inciting anti-Chavez violence.
But this story is a bit more complicated. RCTV broadcast 64 days of anti-Chavez coverage during the 2002 general strike, including ads encouraging people to stop paying taxes. Chavez has accused the station of supporting the coup that briefly ousted him from power later that year. When Chavez regained power, none of the private stations reported the story – RCTV ran the film “Pretty Woman”. On the Media’s typically excellent story on the situation focuses primarily on critics of RCTV, assuming that most listeners will naturally be critical of anti-speech activities. One of the most interesting critics featured in the story is Andre Izarra, who runs pro-Chavez TeleSUR… but who formerly served as news director for RCTV.
Xeni Jardin with BoingBoing ran a post of a link suggested by a reader, a compelling video of RCTV employees wearing gags. Other BoingBoing readers sent comments critical of RCTV, and Xeni posted a followup piece this evening featuring their concerns about RCTV, reasons why reasonable people might support the station’s “shutdown”, and a reminder that the station has been removed from broadcast, but can still broadcast via cable and the Internet. (Broadcast is still where the majority of advertising revenues are in Venezuela.)
That’s what we’ve seen at Global Voices as well – a great deal of strong opinion on both sides of the story. Luis Carlos Diaz translates multiple comments from a 2000-post thread on blog directory to2blogs.com, both in support of RCTV and challenging their past actions. I’m very interested to see whether opinion shifts if Chavez goes after Globovision as aggressively as he’s gone after RCTV.
I don’t know what I think. I’m inclined to be deeply suspicious of any action that takes voices off the air. But there are some people who’ve got good reasons to be very concerned about RCTV’s actions in the past, and I’m glad I get to hear from them as well. Thank you, Internet. (Which, by the way, is the only way I get to hear On the Media.)