July 30, 2009

Protecting the poor, defenseless narcopetrostate from its unspeakably horrid citizens

Juan Cristóbal and Quico say: What would you say is the opposite of human rights? These days, in international usage, the defense of human rights seems to refer largely to measures that protect citizens from abuses of power against them by the state.

If we sign off on that definition, then Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Díaz's speech to the National Assembly today must count as the diametrical opposite of human rights. Her speech, and the "Special Media Crimes Bill" she introduced, were nothing less than an impassioned plea to defend the poor, defenseless chavista narcopetrostate from abuse at the hand of its feral citizenry.

In effect, Ortega Díaz is calling for citizens who exercise their right to free speech "wrongly" to face long prison terms. That's not even the rabid escaulido twist on what she said, that's just ... what she said!

Nobody has been a harsher critic of the opposition media's many and serious shortcomings than this blog. But we need to keep our wits about us. What Ortega Diaz is proposing is a system certain to fill up Venezuela's jails with journalists, media owners and bloggers who, in one way or another, anger members of the new governing elite.

The brazenness and scope of her speech is chilling. The thoughtcrimes "media crimes" that the esteemed Ortega Diaz wants to make punishable with jail are expressed in terms vague enough to be essentially boundless.

For Ortega Diaz, journalists should be criminally liable not just for what they write, but also for the perceptions that the things they write create in their readers. Anyone who uses the mass media to communicate something that disturbs "social peace," "mental health" or "public morals" can end up in jail. Her bill calls for the incarceration of anyone who, through their use of mass media, "destabilizes the State's institutions." Anyone who broadcasts anything that may cause "hatred and hostility" toward people based on, among other things, their "ideology or political affiliation" will end up in the slammer.

Standards like those are vague enough to be replaceable by a single word: everything. Every single thing a journalist writes is bound to lead someone somewhere to create a perception different from the one Ortega Diaz thinks is right. Every single opinion a blogger writes that may cause someone out there to hate a specific politician will make us criminal in the eyes of this deranged fanatic.

(Woooops...we just called her a "deranged fanatic"...that's two to four years in jail for us!)

In effect, Luisa Ortega Díaz's bill would outlaw free speech in Venezuela, plain and simple. Her proposal constitutes the most brazen authoritarian leap this country has seen since the days of Pedro Estrada.