Monday, December 20, 2010

Chavez Trying to Censor Facebook

You know, I get mad at Washington, especially Washington politics –and I get very mad at the President (even sometimes when I like the guy who happens to occupy the White House). In spite of that, I still love our government and our system. In this country, when enough people agree with me and get good and mad, we can actually change things by voicing our opinions and expressing them at the polls. In the heat of my anger, I sometimes forget that and when that happens, all I have to do is look just a little south and see what it means to live in a country with a different system of government. Countries like Cuba with Uncle Fidel trying to be the all-knowing expert on everything from medicine to agriculture and simply locking up anyone who dares to know more. Then, a little further south, we have that inspiring, red-shirted figure Hugo Chávez. Have you heard about his latest attempt to silence his opponents down there in the Venezuelan free society? It seems baby Hugo is tired of everyone’s pokes, tweets and comments. If he has his way, a bill making its way through their Parliament that includes restrictions on social media giants, will become law.

The bill would censor certain websites if they are found to be spreading information that would incite violence against Chávez (as determined by Mr. Chavez and a panel appointed by him). The legislation would add provisions to existing laws that already restrict radio and television. The use of Facebook and Twitter to spread "media manipulation" would be prohibited.

Juan Jose Molina, a lawmaker with opposition party Podemos, took to his Twitter account to express his displeasure with the bill. In tweets on Friday, he said that the legislation would prohibit people from using Twitter and Facebook to send disrespectful messages about public figures. He added that the restrictions would include text messages, photos and audio recordings. Government Censorship at it’s finest)

Chávez is not exactly a media darling in Venezuela. He has taken away the licenses of dozens of radio stations and has a long-running feud with Globovisión television -- actions that have been roundly criticized by media freedoms groups. Last week, the Venezuelan government acquired a minority stake in Globovisión, Venezuela's only remaining opposition-aligned television station. The government now controls 20 percent of Globovisión's shares — assets absorbed in the June takeover of Banco Federal — and has the right to name a Globovisión board member.

The wording of the bill that would censor social networks calls for protecting citizens "moral and ethical honor.” As such, it would also control adult programming. It proposes applying limits on content in "electronic media" according to the time of day and would call on internet service providers to establish mechanisms to restrict nefarious adult content.

The bill comes at a time of turmoil for Venezuelan legislators as Chávez is once again seeking decree powers that would grant him special powers to enact laws as he sees fit.

Chávez said he needs an "enabling law" for the fourth time in his presidency to pass emergency laws quickly in a range of areas, including housing, land use and banking.

Chávez's request comes shortly before the Jan. 5 installation of a new National Assembly in which a bigger opposition presence will prevent him from obtaining the two-thirds majority he would need to obtain such decree powers. In his nearly 12 years in office, the leftist leader has been granted temporary decree powers three times by lawmakers — in 1999, 2001 and 2007. If he gets them again this time, opposition status messages and tweets may just go silent.


In other news, yes, I did see that DADT has been repealed. I do not think I need to say much about this except that I am happy to see that the majority of Americans were able to see the hypocrisy and unfairness of that draconian law. I was equally pleased to see some Republican support in spite of Senator McCain's last minute speech in which he completely abandoned his earlier pledge to support the repeal and instead kept trying to find ways to delay it. Prejudice is an ugly thing, so ugly is is actually very easy to see.

Live Long and Prosper....

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