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Who'll apply the Gag Law to Venezuela's president?

By Aleksander Boyd

London 31.01.05 | On January 23, on occasion of the rally to 'defend Venezuela's sovereignty', Hugo Chavez gave an emotive revolutionary speech highly charged with offensive, sexists and condescending remarks against US Secretary of State Condi Rice specifically and consequentially to women in general. Much debate has generated over the issue of the Gag Law, the hidden agendas behind it and so on and after a quick review of that piece of legislation one must wonder; who will apply the Gag Law to Hugo Chavez? Taking into account his obscene comments; how come no one has filled a lawsuit against him? Could comments such as "not even for my country I would make the sacrifice of getting laid with Condolence [Condoleezza Rice]" be construed as the respectful broadcasting content aimed at the sound formation of children and adolescents?

Article 1 of the new law reads:

The object of this law is to establish social responsibilities of public broadcasters and media as well as those of advertising agencies, national independent TV producers and end users with the purpose of fomenting democratic equilibrium with respect to duties, rights and interests of the parties; aimed at promoting social justice and contributing to the formation of the citizenry; to foster peace, human rights, culture, education, health and the social development of the nation in conformity with a constitutional and legislative framework established for the integral protection of children, adolescents, culture, education, social security, free enterprise and the Organic law of Telecommunications.

Article 3 deals, amongst other things, with the mechanisms devised for the citizenry to held broadcasters accountable; it guarantees freedom of expression and the right to be informed; it promotes the exercise and respect of human rights; it seeks to procure broadcasting material of educational nature aimed at children and adolescents.

Article 10 has provisions related to the right of the State to broadcast, at no cost, its messages on private media that shall be either "…cultural, educative, informative or preventive of public service, which shall not exceed, in its totality, of seventy (70) minutes per week o fifteen (15) minutes per day [sic].

The wording of the first article is a tad imprecise. However the legal context suggests that the purpose of this law is to make public broadcasting educative and above all else respectful of fundamental human rights principles, providing mechanisms to held the media accountable. Thus it is quite difficult to fit the aforementioned with the vitriolic and venomous presidential speeches, whereby the dignity of women and political opponents is degraded on a constant basis by none other than the head of the executive. The first section of the constitution's article (236) dealing with presidential attributions and duties reads:

1) To comply with and enforce this Constitution and the law.

Quite comical isn't? In view of Chavez' absolute control over all branches of power; who'll apply the Gag law to him? Or even better; who will Gag Chavez?



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