Thursday, July 03, 2014
Requiem for El Universal?
UPDATE: It has been confirmed.
The rumors on the sale of El Universal are intensifying again. Not only Bocaranada's Runrunes inside El Universal today mention them, but in his web page he gives more details. But as it is usual in Venezuela gossipmongering, they always fall short of spitting out the beans in full. Which of course creates even more uncertainties.
I am not going to discuss further the type of gossip Bocaranada excels at, the type where he self promotes, where he dishes out as little as possible so people are forced to follow him. Such crass manipulation when common good is at a premium repulses me. But such is the nature of Venezuelan journalism, and the addiction of public formed on "novelas", soap operas, where nothing is revealed in full until the end.
Let's just assume that indeed El Universal is up for sale and that indeed someone will be announced as the new owner next Saturday. No matter whom, this is terrible news. Even if it is true that it is a politically independent group of Spaniards that promise that the political line of the paper will not be changed, we can bet it will. Nobody is going to invest dozens of millions of dollars to risk a fight with a regime that can punish you easily without the possibility of defending yourself.
It is thus a disaster in the making. If El Universal is sold there will be ONLY two national newspapers left in Venezuela with a frontal opposition voice. El Nacional which has its own sale price and which sometimes sounds more than an hysterical rag, and lonely Tal Cual that survives because its dedicated journalists are accepting not to be payed what they should be paid.
What is even sadder is that El Universal is possibly the lone paper with an untarnished tradition of opposing the militaristic brutality of Chavez since day 1. El Nacional, for one, supported Chavez in 1998.
Only some local papers will survive but with means highly reduced to offer real news outside regime's propaganda, in Barquisimeto, Valencia, Maracaibo and Puerto Ordaz (and maybe others of little influence?). In radio it is all over except for Caracas and a couple of cities. And in TV it is fully over as the private networks exert abundant self censorship. I, for one, has stopped watching Venezuelan TV since last year.
What is left of us? Unfiltered for seriousness Twitter? Facebook clubbing? A return to Samizdats? Radio Londres? And this in a climate of constantly deteriorating Internet services (between 5 and 9 PM there is no point in connecting in San Felipe, too slow).
The dictatorship advances and groups with money are willing to join in, making Murdoch not looking that bad after all: at least he bought them to promote a line against a given government...
PS: I am not mad at Andres Mata for selling. What choice does he have? He does not even have enough paper anymore to print a full edition, not to mention he has been personally threatened several times. What I am mad is at the MUD and Capriles for not taking earlier vigorous actions to defend freedom of expression. This, for me, will be one of the great mysteries of the MUD incompetence. When Andres Mata family tradition weighs in front the opportunism of people like Allup, or the nicompoopery of Capriles, why should he risk his family fortune for them?