Hey Maduro: Asking questions and building sources does not make a person a spy!

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered American film maker Timothy Tracer arrested for espionage and promoting unrest in the country. (Venezuela’s president orders arrest of American filmmaker)

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said they had evidence Tracy was promoting dissent and unrest in Venezuela. According to Rodriguez proof was in “the way he acted.” Rodriguez said it was clear Tracey was a spy because “he knows how to infiltrate, how to recruit sources.”

Well, gee, isn’t that what all journalists and documentary filmmakers are supposed to do?

Seeing how the official media from China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela are indeed agents of the security (spy) agencies one can understand how dictators could have a hard time understanding this “independent journalism” thing.

When I lived in China I saw how the government acted as if Western media outlets were part of the Western intelligence services.

In the 1990’s Western media were anxious to have bureaus in Shanghai.  Beijing allocated permission for foreign correspondents to be based in Shanghai based on the media outlet’s country of origin. So that meant if the Associated Press got permission to have a bureau in Shanghai, the New York Times would have to wait until requests from news organizations from other countries were filled one by one.

A Shanghai government official explained that it was the only fair way to make sure that each country was represented by its official media. (Again, missing the point that there is no “official” media in the United States or most of Europe.)

Then, in Iran western journalists are required to be accompanied by “handlers” while also being followed by the secret police.

Do I really need to say anything about North Korea. ‘Nuff said!

And now Maduro confirms that Venezuela has joined this happy band of dictators by equating anyone who asks questions or build sources of information with spies. And they will stretch anything to make their point.

The minister then showed a video, “so the people in the country can see what we are confronting.”

But in the video, purportedly shot by Tracy, young people joke and mug for the camera in a drab room. It is unclear how the video points to a destabilization plan. Nor does it explain Tracy’s role.

I guess mugging for the camera is something that only Maduro and his Chavistas can do.

One thing about the story in the Post…

While it points out the arrest and the accusations of Maduro that the opposition parties are in league with the United States, it does little to discuss the overarching issue that the arrest of Tracy exemplifies: The repression of free media.

Too many apologists for Chavez/Maduro have pointed to private-sector media being used to undermine the government. What these apologists fail to understand — or refuse to accept — is that government control of the media only means that unrest and instability are more likely.

Without independent and competing news organizations — i.e. government-controlled media — the people have no way of getting accurate information. The people pick up on how the media are being used for propaganda purposes pretty quickly and begin to ignore or disbelieve anything in the media.

There is nothing to check corrupt and/or inept leaders. So corruption runs rampant and inept officials get a free pass to keep causing problems because there is no method to peacefully correct the situation.

The only means of transferring information, then becomes word of mouth. (I think I hear someone saying: “Let’s play telephone!”)

When word of mouth — aka – rumors — become the norm for information transfer, societies become more unstable. Unrest grows and dissatisfaction with the ruling elite grows.

You see it in China by the increasing number of people who rely on text messages to get accurate info and in the number of reporters and editors who are constantly pushing against the censors.

We see it in the unrest in Argentina where the government arrests people for publishing the actual numbers related to inflation and national debt.

And we see it in Venezuela where the leadership is so nervous about their precarious position that they arrest an independent film maker for doing what independent film makers do, develop sources, ask questions and present the situation.


1 Comment

Filed under Censorship, Connections, Press Freedom, South America

One response to “Hey Maduro: Asking questions and building sources does not make a person a spy!

  1. Pingback: Venezuela releases U.S. filmmaker | Journalism, Journalists and the World

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