Why preserve the parliamentary journalism in Venezuela?

Press release by the National Assembly president Juan Guaido (01/31/2019). Lokman Ilhan – Agencia Anadolu

By Xavier Rodriguez Franco

In the last two and a half centuries, part of the parliamentary stage has been the figure of scribes, transcriptionists or stenographers who since then have made it possible to record and disseminate debates, arguments and – if any – agreements of parliamentary sessions. Giving written evidence of who was present, what was proposed, what were the arguments of those who opposed it, which always contains a sense of posterity that every collegiate institution appreciates.

Beyond the methods and the changing political circumstances, the more these chronicles can be amplified, the more possibilities there are to make the government action known to other members and actors of society.

This tradition over the years has specialized, and beyond the resistance of authoritarianisms to be scrutinized, it has found its way to prevail and remain still until our days as a reflection of the public interest in political deliberation. A great circumstance which inexorably implies that citizens are incorporated into the deliberation.

In fact, observing the political dynamics from this perspective so close to the struggle of visions and interests, often offers a broad and daily perception, which can hardly be achieved if any other source of information is covered. Hence the importance of professionalism and a sense of political environment that must be developed when handling information by journalism. There’s no way to understand a minimally democratic parliament without these professional messengers and their valuable daily job.

The Venezuelan parliamentary journalism

For many journalists, covering the parliamentary source is an important step in their careers. In addition to being at privileged place of this political struggle, it also implies having the ability to deal with the complexity of the profession in the midst of the plurality of interests that affect this arena. Which, in sum, represents a great challenge to the rigor and objectivity of his work. However, this independent parliamentary journalism, in authoritarian contexts, is an obstacle to the pre-manufactured, hegemonic and aggressive narrative of any dictatorship. Which is exactly what is happening in Venezuela with the expansion of the “Bolivarian Revolution”.

In Venezuela, with the continuing destruction of democracy, being a journalist assigned to this coverage of information has become in one of the highest risk professional activities. Journalists are becoming a political target. Reality reported for many national and international organizations such as Human Rights Watch or Reporters Without Border. His work of searching for information, according to the testimony of Venezuelan journalists themselves, represents a maximum level of exposure to the repressive violence of the state. Since in the pre-modern logic of Chavismo, any work that stimulates citizen scrutiny entails a threatening reality.

After several interviews with journalists from the source, in all of them we were able to verify the idea that practicing journalism or research in Venezuela, in addition to being a challenge, demands the development of unconventional techniques, not only to better understand and explain the environment, but also as a necessary resource for survival in the trade. In an authoritarian context such as Venezuela, everything is politics and politics ends up conditioning everything, even professional continuity and in some cases individual freedom itself.

In this confrontational framework, parliamentary journalism, in its effort to communicate, has suffered firsthand this documented dictatorial harassment, due to a political ideology that perceives discrepancy and pubic opinion as a stumbling block that must be silenced. Hence the commendable daily work of the reporters, who despite such a threatening context and permanent surveillance, continue their mission of reporting.

“In Venezuela, with the continuing destruction of democracy, being a journalist assigned to this coverage of information has become in one of the highest risk professional activities. Journalists are becoming a political target.” Xavier Rodriguez Franco

Image: Colegio Nacional de Periodistas de Venezuela.

The parliamentary journalism matters

For many journalists, covering the parliamentary source is an important step in their careers. In addition to being at the forefront of this political struggle, it also implies having the ability to deal with the complexity of the profession in the midst of the plurality of interests that affect this arena. Which, in sum, represents a great challenge to the rigor and objectivity of his work. However, this independent parliamentary journalism, in authoritarian contexts, is an obstacle to the processed, hegemonic and aggressive narrative with the discrepancy of any dictatorship. As happens in Venezuela with the expansion of the “Bolivarian Revolution”.

In Venezuela, with the sustained destruction of democratic institutions, being a journalist assigned to this source has ended up being one of the highest risk professional activities. Making journalists a political target. His work of searching for information, according to the testimony of Venezuelan journalists themselves, represents a maximum level of exposure to the repressive violence of the state. Since in the pre-modern logic of Chavismo, any work that stimulates citizen scrutiny entails a threatening reality.

After several interviews with specialized journalists, in all of them without exceptions we were able to verify the idea that practicing journalism in Venezuela, in addition to being a challenge, demands the development of unconventional techniques, not only to better understand and explain the complex and changing environment, but also as a necessary resource for survival to the political harassment. In an authoritarian context such as Venezuela, everything is politics and politics ends up conditioning everything, even professional continuity and in some cases individual freedom itself.

In this confrontational framework, parliamentary journalism, in its effort to communicate, has suffered firsthand this documented dictatorial vocation of a political ideology that perceives discrepancy as a stumbling block that must be silenced. Hence the commendable daily work of the reporters, who despite such a threat scheme and permanent surveillance, continue to this day with their mission of reporting.

“Safeguarding the presence of journalist on each parliamentary session is also a way of democratic resistance that concerns us all to preserve.” Xavier Rodriguez Franco

What we preserve through the independent journalism?

The image that citizens have of their parliamentary representation, on many occasions and without realizing it, is due to work that is usually invisible to public opinion, and which is mainly due to the work of the journalist. In his mystique to interview, broadcast live and summarize the incidents from the sessions or the corridors of the committees, the idea that many citizens have about Parliament and politics in general is based on these chronics.

The presence of a journalist in a parliament is in itself a message of democracy, of collective interest in public affairs and its institutional management. They will communicate a debate, a bill approval, an investigation report or a speech, information that as a whole is part of everyone’s documentary heritage. In fact, the information they handle does not belong to them, nor to the fractions, nor to the representatives, it is the contingent account of all and the living chronicle of the time that we have to share in society. Hence, the laws, institutions and citizens preserve their integrity and their permanence in each session.

We should recognize, that thanks to the tenacity of the last journalist generation, after two decades of authoritarianism, the National Assembly remains today as the last government branch with presence of independent media in Venezuela. Therefore, safeguarding their presence in each parliamentary session is also a way of democratic resistance that concerns us all to preserve.


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