Venezuelan government pulls drug-trafficking themed telenovelas off the air

Claiming that "narco-novelas" hurt the social and psychological well-being of children and adolescents, Venezuela's Nacional Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) has forbidden television stations from airing two telenovelas, or soap operas, whose main protagonists are drug dealers, reported El Universal and BBC Mundo.

The censored shows, "El Capo," which is about a drug dealer who becomes president, and "Rosario Tijeras," about a young woman drug dealer and killer, both of which are produced in Colombia, have prompted anew debate about freedom of expression.

The decision to cancel the shows was based on the Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law. Venezuela's official National Radio published an analysis alleging the shows glorified drug dealers and promoted the legalization of drugs, BBC Mundo explained.

Telenovela writer Leonardo Padrón told El Universal that the censorship was an act of "absurd puritanism. If it's a measure to reduce violence, it should be applied on the streets."

El Periodiquito reported that the cancellations will cost the television stations about $1 million each.

This is the second time in recent months that Venezuela has used the excuse of children's psychological well-being to practice censorship. In August, Venezuelan courts banned the press from publishing "violent, bloody or grotesque" images after El Nacional published a front-page photo of bodies in a morgue.

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.