By Yenibel Ruiz
In the midst of a tense social climate and reports of attacks on the press, social media users in Venezuela are spreading the hashtag #ExpresiónSinOpresión (#ExpressionWithoutOppression) to talk about the importance of freedom of expression in the country.
The Press and Society Institute (IPYS) of Venezuela launched the campaign on July 10.
The project aims to promote opportunities for reflection in relation to the significance of “freedom of expression” for the health of democracy. In this sense, it is based on three fundamental rights: “the right to give and receive information; the right to speak without being humiliated, mocked or violated; and the right to be connected to the internet without interference,” according to IPYS Venezuela.=
“We wanted to make a campaign that will reach farther to the citizens and started working on this idea six months ago to look for a simple, everyday way of addressing these issues,” said Maruja Dagnino, director of communications for IPYS Venezuela, to the Knight Center.
To do this, IPYS created a character named Cheo, a young man from a popular middle class neighborhood in Caracas, to be the protagonist of the campaign.
Cheo is in the last year of secondary school, a good student and “idealistic”: “But I am not satisfied with what they taught me in high school, not with the injustices. On TV, I see programs on science, culture and thinks like that. I like to think that the world is much bigger, so I am used to being connected to the internet.”
“We decided that this character was a kind of ‘nerd,’ intelligent, kind, who also likes baseball. We think that it is important to highlight the values of Venezuelans, to send a message that better generates empathy,” Dagnino said.
Danigno explained that the idea with Cheo is to reach a younger audience who did not see the other periods of Venezuelan society in which the problems of freedom of expression were not so serious.
“These young people are our ideal target because after we want, from this videos, to make forums, conversations in universities and in communities,” Danigno said.
Dagnino explained that the first stage of the campaign is within social networks: Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and IPYS’ website. But, the second phase consists of creating forums in communities not only in Caracas, but throughout the country, with the help of correspondents from IPYS.
She added that there are six videos in this first stage, three meant to establish an emotional connection with the public so that citizens remember the three fundamental rights and the three explanations.
A second video launched as part of the campaign has the slogan “Imagine you can know everything you want” and the hashtag #SaberConLibertad. It showed Cheo reading a press in which “Everything is good” while highlighted behind the character are issues that affect the country, like scarcity of resources, insecurity, corruption, inflation and injustice, among others.
In addition to #ExpresiónSinOpresión, the campaign is also using hashtags to match the three rights being promoted: #NavegarConLibertad (#NavigateWithFreedom), #SaberConLibertad (#KnowWithFreedom) and #OpinarConLibertad (#CriticizeWithFreedom).
The organization also has urged people to use the hashtags to report violations against freedom of expression.
“The initiative emphasizes the lack of guarantees for the right to know, the right to navigate and the right to criticize, which are large knots in which censorship in Venezuela rests and constructs a society of fear,” IPYS said.
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.