Venezuelan women recently demonstrated against 6to Poder (The 6th Power), a privately owned newspaper, for portraying several high ranking elected female officials as cabaret girls in a photomontage.
The graphic was titled “Chavez’s Women in Power” with the subtitle “Cabaret of the Revolution,” and claimed the women were recruited to “attract the public to the revolution.”
The protesters marched to the district attorney’s office in Caracas demanding it take action against the paper for promoting “symbolic violence against women” and being “disrespectful and deprecating.”
A statement signed by the women read in part, “We urge the Republic’s District Attorney, Luisa Ortega Díaz, to apply the full weight of the law and sanctions where admissible. We demand the immediate closure of the weekly newspaper 6to Poder for the flagrant violation of women’s rights.”
The president of Venezuela’s Supreme Court promised action, saying, “As women we are prepared to defend our dignity, we cannot allow this kind of assault.”
Vice-president of the National Assembly Blanca Eeckout was one of the women portrayed in the photomontage. She pointed to the larger destabilizing efforts being used as a tactic by the right-wing, saying, “They know that they have no arguments, nor morality, nor the capability to replace the leadership of President Hugo Chávez.”
6to Poder is the first newspaper to have its license revoked by the government.
The paper’s female director Dinora Giron was arrested on criminal charges of insulting public officials, instigating hatred and publicly offending women. Giron was later released.
A warrant has also been issued for the arrest of Leocenis García, the newspaper’s owner who is in hiding. Garcia told El Carabobeno, a Venezuelan media outlet, that he would turn himself in if the newspaper was allowed to reopen.
The ban has been lifted on newspaper, but Garcia has still not surrendered to authorities.
The Committee to Protect Journalists’ senior Americas program coordinator Carlos Lauría stated, “We welcome the lifting of the ban on 6to Poder as the first step toward justice in the case… Prosecutors must now drop all charges against its staff.”
Venezuela has received a lot of criticism for the way it deals with media in the past, and these most recent actions promise to incite more criticism.
The United Socialist Party of Venezuela and the Communist Party of Venezuela have both backed the government’s actions. Rodrigo Cabezas of the socialist party said in a statement, “Here there is freedom of expression, but not freedom of defamation,” and he said media outlets should practice “responsible journalism.”
Socialist governments in the past have suffered from restrictions on press freedom. The parties did not comment on how the arrest and banning would impact the image of Venezuela’s brand, “21st century socialism.”
In response to recent actions by right-wing forces, the Venezuelan National Assembly called for a special meeting to discuss the possibility of an attack on state institutions.
Groups such as the “Roundtable of Democratic Unity” (MUD) claim the action taken by the government is an “attack on freedom of expression.” MUD is currently under investigation for receiving millions of dollars from U.S. government organizations such as the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, a violation of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council.
Under Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, women have benefited, with legal guarantees to women’s rights, the creation of a women’s and gender equality ministry and a bank, Banmujer, which gives credit to poor women.