Venezuela caught in Freedom of Information debate

via Caribbean 360

By Humberto Márquez

CARACAS, Venezuela – Controversy has flared up in Venezuela over planned reforms to the law on online media, especially because restrictions that already apply to the content of radio and television broadcasts would be extended to the internet. Portals and networks that transmit messages deemed to be illegal may face heavy fines, or even be shut down.

The single-chamber legislature, made up of over 90 percent pro-government lawmakers, approved the first reading of an amendment to the 2005 Social Responsibility in Radio and Television Law (Ley RESORTE), extending its provisions to electronic media.

Under the proposed amendments, radio, TV or internet messages that “could incite crimes against the president”, “could stir up unrest or disturb public order”, “defy the legitimately installed authorities,” or that promote law- breaking, war, hate or political, religious, racial, gender or xenophobic intolerance, will be actionable.

The reform bill is likely to be adopted at its second reading this week, along with other draft laws speeding through Congress in a race against time. Emergency sessions are being held this month at all hours, before the newly elected Congress takes office Jan. 5, with a strong opposition that is still in the minority, but will be vocal.

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