The chilling effect

It started with a rumor posted on popular anti-ChA?vez site that several government ministers had been murdered. Now there is talk in Venezuela of “regulating the internet,” whatever that might mean. I’ll believe it when I see it (and when I do see it, I’m going into the web proxy business).

Frankly, the rumors that started the uproar deserve to be investigated. Veiled threats of violence against government officials (and actually, threats of violence against anyone) are not protected speech anywhere in the world. But the proper response in that case is to send some detectives to knock on doors. Instead, ChA?vez goes on a general televised rant against the media:

Around 3:45 he states, in reference to an analyst who spoke to television channel GlobovisiA?n:

Whoever makes a statement must present proof for what they’re saying, both the one who says it, and the one who lets it be said and spread. They know how to buy levitra in usa. they’re committing a crime that is punished with prison anywhere in the world.

When journalists and editors are required to bear the burden of proof on pain of imprisonment, it silences speech. This is the reasoning behind New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. Everyone has different libel laws and different standards for acceptable speech, but I would never practice journalism or publish information in a country where I could go to jail for making a mistake.

Neither would anyone else, and that’s just the point. Whether or not anyone ever actually goes to jail is irrelevant. Speech is silenced. The chilling effect is in, and not coincidentally, on another Venezuelan news site – – comments have been turned off. Just in case.

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