A Venezuelan citizen living in Manchester is calling on the UK’s mainstream media to devote more attention to the crisis occurring in his home country.
Freedom of speech, access to media, differences of opinion and the ability to peacefully protest without being shot at are human rights, right? Wrong – not in Venezuela anyway.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was a controversial figure even when he gained power in April 2013.
As demonstrations swept across Venezuela last week surrounding the rapid inflation (an increase 100% within a month), high levels of violence and economic problems, the government responded with force.
Protests on February 12 resulted in shooting in the street and the imprisonment of more than 100 students who were peacefully protesting.
Despite the violence, coverage in British media has been limted – particularly on the television.
Gerrado Schettino, a journalist and Venezuelan national who lives in Manchester, is organising the peaceful protest outside MediaCityUK to campaign for more coverage as the situation worsens.
In the UK, as well as the rest of the world, it has been social media instead of news channels that have reported the extent of the authoritarian regime being imposed on Venezuelans and documented the situation as it deteriorated over the last few days.
Mr Schettino said: “Neither BBC Television, SKY News, or ITV have given news about the Venezuelan crisis the prominence or the depth they deserve.
“Media should provide deeper, more extensive and more prominent coverage of the Venezuelan crisis, lest it fail its public purpose, more so when media has been expulsed and censored in Venezuela.”
This is evidently a result of the government’s control of local and international media. Nicolas Maduro stated on national TV that his opponents were promoting violence by reporting the fighting on the streets.
Maduro has threatened international channels such as CNN saying that if they don’t ‘rectify their coverage’ they will be kicked out.
Last week Colombian channel NTN 24 was shut down for reporting the demonstrations.
Approximately 25,000 people are killed by gunfire in Venezuela per year, with the figure looking to be on the increase.
On Monday evening, the oppositional leader Leopoldo Lopez made a YouTube video saying he was going to hand himself over to authorities to show that ‘he has nothing to hide’.
There have since been many demonstrations and requests from Venezuelans asking for him to be freed, which Maduro has not done.
Gerrardo acted quickly over social media to organise an improvised campaign outside MediaCityUK, Salford Quays, to ask for more media support for the Venezuelan crisis.
Mr Schettino continued: “The president is allied with Cuba – he’s literally their puppet. People need to know about the situation there.”
The second campaign, due to be held Saturday, February 22, has been organised on Facebook and there are already 62 people attending including Venezuelan and non-Venezuelan nationals.
At the same time there will be campaigns in 39 other cities in Europe, including Aberdeen and London in the UK.
Mr Schettino said: “I expect there to be around 150 people attending as news spreads quickly over social media. It is a media war there, nobody has access in Venezuela, but we are trying to reach the news here.
“The most impressive thing to me as a journalist is that this was all organised over social media.”
Mr Schettino has lived in the UK for four years and said: “It is not a protest, it’s a peaceful campaign. I love living in Manchester, I love the north, the people are so warm.”
Gerrado has already got permission for this campaign from Swinton Police and MediaCityUK and will be held from 11am-3pm.