World Press Freedom Day fell on May 3 this year, celebrating the importance of free speech, expression, and publication. The regime in Venezuela, however, is cracking down on journalists as part of the government’s increasingly oppressive tactics against the country’s widespread protests. Centro de Divulgacion del Conocimiento Economico para la Libertad (CEDICE Freedom), an Atlas Network partner based in Caracas, pointed out on World Press Freedom Day that the rapid pace of technology is making it increasingly difficult for authoritarian governments to maintain a chokehold on information.
“In national terms, it is a universal right of humanity — no one can restrict the freedom to communicate,” said Isabel Pereira, director of CEDICE Freedom (translated from Spanish). The limited viewing options of television, for instance, are dwarfed by the dizzying array of information available in online media. “The existing technological advance came to reinforce this right. … Chains where you force the citizen during a certain time to hear a single word, are authoritarian exercises that are exhausted because below them is running the entire network of free information that for government is impossible to suppress.”
CEDICE Freedom has been fighting for freedom of expression and the press since the organization’s founding in 2007, pointed out law professor Andrea Rondón García, who heads CEDICE Freedom’s property rights committee. There’s much more to the issue than merely property rights.
“We have emphasized that private property is not only an economic and patrimonial issue: it is mainly ethical, and precisely the ‘communicational hegemony’ on the part of the state is a perfect example of this,” Rondón said. “Through this policy the impartial media have been eliminated, which have been replaced by means that do not allow the full exercise of freedom of the press, including the right to be informed. Our ability to exercise our freedom of expression and to develop economic freedom in this area have been widely and frontally undermined.”
Although the state of civil rights in Venezuela is dire, CEDICE Freedom is vigilant in its ongoing work to turn the tide. The organization’s Watchdog for Freedom and Democracy in Venezuela recently won the Francisco de Vitoria Award for Ethics and Values during Latin America Liberty Forum, and CEDICE Freedom’s general manager, Rocio Guijarro Saucedo, received the Giancarlo Ibárgüen Freedom Award for promoting personal liberty in a way that is consistent with human dignity. Their work promoting the free society is making a practical difference in Venezuela every day.