Hugo Rafael Chavez is the president of Venezuela. As the official leader of the Bolivian Revolution, he is one of the key political reformists advocating for a political dogma wrapped characteristic of participatory democracy in socialism. The idea behind this is to pool together Latin America with the Caribbean in an effort of forging a common cooperation. Notably, Chavez is a seasoned critic of globalization, neo-liberalism, and mostly, the US foreign policies. As a former career military personnel, Chavez and others founded the militant left-wing Fifth Republic Movement after the failed 1992 coup d`etat against Carlos Andrés Perez. Nonetheless, in 1998 he was elected the Venezuelan president for the first time. During this period, the media was involved in massive political coverage as well as development issues that formed a significant ratio of its total coverage. However, after oil was discovered, Chavez was associated with various scandals that led to a major conflict between him and the media.
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President Carlos Andrés Pérez was the president of Venezuela before Chavez took over. During Perez's tenure, freedom of the press was significantly respected and upheld. Basically, freedom of the press refers to the freedom of communication and expression through diverse vehicles, such as electronic and print media. Globally, such freedom commonly exists only in the absence of unnecessary state interferences. In the case of Venezuela, it is notable that the media has never enjoyed complete freedom of the press. It is evident, however, that there have been remarkable developments in the advancement of democracy in Venezuela since 1958. Despite its turbulent past, Venezuela has witnessed major political changes since then. As the nation underwent these transitions, the media was always at the forefront of fighting for the plight of the common man. When the nation began to move towards a dictatorial inclination, the freedom of the press was not curtailed or regulated by the state. The media continued to cover both regional and national issues that were paramount to both the common citizens and the government as well. Even under the most repressive and brutal regimes, the media was left alone and this provided a room for the growth and development of media in Venezuela. However, in certain cases, particularly during the formational years, certain media personnel were banned from practice by the government due to their radical stands against those political regimes. Over the past few decades, Venezuela has witnessed a number of challenges relating to the respect of media rights. However, since 1948, there has been only two military governments with an interlude of forty years of quasi-democracy. During this period, both electronic and print media experienced considerable development. From 1948 to 1958, Gen. Marcos Perez Jimenez ruled under a military despotism. During his reign, the media enjoyed complete freedom. He helped establish a vibrant media environment that had much respect for the freedom of the press. This due to the realization that if the freedom of the press was checked by the government, the media community could probably have reiterated by painting a negative image of the government.
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Principally, since the period ruled by which Gen. Marcos Perez Jimenez, the media has relatively been well protected. The Venezuelan media has been growing stronger, criticizing the government where necessary. However, before Chavez came to power, the previous regimes though quite dictatorial, they allowed the growth and advancement of diverse forms of free speech, such as the use of symbols, organized civil or public expressions, and development of vibrant radio and TV broadcasts. Freedom of the press is an indispensable attribute of a lawful democratic system. About this, the Venezuelan government has been very central in fostering freedom of expression, especially through the media, which has made it become very close to the citizens. Exploring the period between 1940 and 1998, Venezuela experienced a stable media environment. When Marcos Perez Jimenez was in power, the freedom of the press was highly regarded, creating a good relationship between the government and the media. This relationship has quite been furthered by other regimes. The fond memories of media prosperity under the military rule have helped instill discipline to the way the journalists treat political and religious leaders. Arguably, no one military regime has ever suppressed the media. This has led to the development of a well balanced state-media relationship. Democratic changes in Venezuela can be traced back since the time the ballot became less guarded by the party administrations. This saw to the unrestricted freedom of expression of the public and the media. Therefore, it right to say that before Chavez came to power, the Venezuelans enjoyed total freedom of press and speech. For any autonomous regime to experience an economic boom, freedom of press and freedom of speech must be embraced. Sadly, president Hugo Chavez does not seem to recognize this. It is apparent that Chavez is much focused on unlimited control of the media. Since the attempted coup, Chavez has exercised total control on the media and the judicial system as well. He has established an autocratic form of governance, formulating laws that much restricts the freedom of the press. Such laws are craftily tied to aspects of criminal defamation, which has effectively driven private media houses out of business. This violates the liberties of individuals and corporations as established by international law. Pertaining to the tenets of a free press and the purposes of the press, Venezuela is witnessing a time when the government is out to deny its independence. Studies show that since independence, Chavez is the first president to be seriously associated with the abuse of media rights and freedom of the press. This is quite intense with him forcing the close down of private owned radio and television stations. He has also occasionally imprisoned his opponents without following the due legal procedures. Fear of criticism has immensely made Chavez to constantly strike out on the media. In Venezuela, the authorities have little regard for the media, which is patent in close down of RCTV, the oldest private owned Tv station in the state. Correctly, the media in this country is under siege, unlike during the reign of such leaders as Rafael Caldera, Romulo Betancourt, and Raul Leoni.
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It is apparent that the Venezuelan media has undergone a drastic change, this is evidence in the fact that, the media has become a tool of the executive, where the current leaders use violate the media rights as a means of silencing their opponents. With the absolute control of the media by the executive, the responsibility of the media in the Venezuelan culture has been much diminished. After the April 11, 2002, failed coup, Venezuelan media particularly the privately owned press has witnessed a massive violation of freedom of speech and expression. Consequently, advocacy organizations like Human Rights Watch and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have been much critical on some of the state's restrictions, such as the one referred to as Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, which prohibits depictions of aggression or violence between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. on TV and radio stations. This is aimed at preventing the broadcast of incidences like demonstrations on the TV. Hugo Chavez is thought of as a radical communist who has significantly impaired Venezuela's economy through poorly executed socialistic policies. People only hope that the next regimes will embrace the freedom of the press, as it is imperative in facilitating a philosophical foundation for sound authority. Though after the 1992 failed coup the media much endorsed Hugo Chavez to the masses, it eventually found itself on the receiving end. The media has faced countless violations and threats from the ruling class, which works hard to prevent the exposure of their corrupt deals by the media. In this regard, the violation of media rights can be attributed to corruption in the oil business. This indicates that, as long as Chavez will remain in power, independent media will ever be banned and the future of the media will only be safe after Chavez exits from power. It is apparent that, the corporate media which have significantly played a critical role to educate people on issues affecting the society and exposing the evils within the current regime. As such, it calls for radical changes among the masses, who are supposed to compel Chavez to change his leadership style. It is clear that Chavez's regime aims at restricting the freedom of the media in order to continue committing crimes without being reported. Therefore, the corporate media is left with the only one option; supporting a capitalistic minded individual who recognizes the importance of independent media. Since the closure of RCTV, it has become a culture for the independent media to employ less critical channel of dealing with the current regime due to the fear of retribution. All in all, it can be pointed out that, the future of the media is stuck between two diverse extremes, that is, the independent media that covers the truth on the ground, or the government-manipulated media. It is hoped that one day, the functions of the media will be appreciated in Venezuela, as it is important for its economic, social, and political development.