By Ingrid Bachmann
Starting Dec. 14, Venezuela’s National Assembly will begin to work on reforming the Social Responsibility on Radio and Television Law to include internet services and digital media, El Impulso and Europa Press report.
The changes to the law were sent to the Assembly by the vice president’s office last week, El Tiempo explains. The bill would apply scheduling and content restrictions to internet publications, including bans on material that “disrespects” government officials.
Several media and citizen groups have warned that the bill threatens freedom of expression and is an attempt by the government to police text messages, social networks, and email, El Nacional reports. The opposition said President Hugo Chávez is looking to implement “censorship mechanisms” and wants new legal tools to shut down media companies, EFE adds.
According to La Verdad, the president of the Inter American Press Association and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression also voiced their concern with the government-sponsored reform.
The bill will first go to the National Assembly’s Media Committee. According to the chair, Deputy Manuel Villalba, controls on the Internet are not a threat to freedom of expression. “No one should be afraid. It is to defend the citizenry” from things like pedophilia and pederasty, he said, quoted by El Universal.
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.