When holders of political power end freedom of the press, they have closed the circle of oppression, there is no longer any of the essential components of democracy in existence. There is no half-way freedom of the press. Freedom of the press is the last bastion of defense of freedom and democracy. In the mold of the Organized Crime’s dictatorships, the control and manipulation of the news media is the main instrument used for the sustainment of the regime, as it is now happening in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua.
Freedom of the press is a right. The basis for freedom of the press as a right is included in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, which states; “Every individual has the right to have freedom of opinion and of expression; this right includes not to be harassed due to the individual’s opinion and expression, it includes to be able to investigate, and receive, information and opinions, and to broadcast them, without limitation of borders, by any means of expression.”
The UNESCO considers freedom of the press as “a main component of the greater right of freedom of expression”. There is freedom of the press when “citizens can exercise their right to edit the means of communication whose content is neither controlled, nor censured by the branches of government”. Freedom of the press is the right to investigate and inform without any kind of coercion or threats, such as; prior censorship, harassment, or any act aimed at altering or annulling the will.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed by the “respect to Human Rights and basic civil liberties”, by the existence of the “Rule of Law”, by the “separation and independence of the branches of government”, which along with the “celebration of periodic, free and fair elections based on the universal and secret suffrage as an expression of the people’s sovereignty” and a regime of plurality of political parties and organizations, constitute the fundamental components of democracy. Freedom of the press is inherent to democracy, it needs the conditions from democracy to exist while, at the same time, it guarantees them.
The 21st Century in the Americas has demonstrated that the model of the alliance between Castro and Chavez imposed its methodology of violation of human rights and basic civic liberties, it took control of all branches of the government, eliminated the Rule of Law, supplanted existing constitutions, imposed “despicable laws” violating human rights, institutionalized electoral fraud, persecuted, jailed, and exiled anyone opposing them thus destroying the system of plurality of political parties and organizations. When the now dictators from Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, using the Cuban model, controlled all branches of government and supplanted the Rule of Law, they attacked and ended the free press.
Cuba with the Castro’s, Venezuela with Chavez and Maduro, Bolivia with Evo Morales, Nicaragua with Daniel Ortega, and Ecuador with Rafael Correa, replaced freedom of the press with a system of control of the information with prior censorship, self-censorship, financial and judicial repression. They appropriated themselves -through transfers under duress, seizures, intervention, and violence- of private news media in order to place them at their service, they have supported and created state media, founded and funded regional media, they manage the official propaganda as a mechanism for extorsion, they use taxes as a means of pressure and retribution, they extort companies regarding the assignment of their propaganda, they start and sustain “assassination of reputation” campaigns against journalists and owners of news media.
Attacks, aggression, disappearances, and assassinations have been portrayed as common crime, when there are police complaint reports and well-founded suspicion that these were crimes aimed to specifically silence the freedom of the press. Several journalists and news media businessmen are in exile, many more are unemployed, harassed, and prosecuted. Others, subjugated by either fear or need to the shamefulness of the regime.
In the absence of democracy and the existence of Organized Crime’s dictatorships in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, we can no longer continue treating the issue of freedom of the press in relative terms. Objective reality does not allow us to think there is a little bit of freedom, or that a bit of it still remains. The facts show there is no freedom of the press simply and solely because there are no conditions of democracy there.
Published in Spanish by Diario las Américas on Sunday May 13th, 2018