Thursday, 11 April 2013

Facing every challenge possible

Women have always had a more challenging role in the workplace. From lower wages, to casual sexism to outright gender bias, a woman can expect several obstacles throughout her career, whether from her family, her bosses or even herself. In Venezuela, however, some women journalists are now facing threat from a new and significantly more disturbing source: their government.

Rayma Suprani, an award-winning cartoonist for El Universal, has been threatened for her satirical cartoons, which criticize the government’s policies and the social conditions of the country. She and other women journalists have been ridiculed on television (on media channels that are sponsored by the political party in power), sent threatening text messages and been denounced, at times violently, on social media sites such as twitter. According to reports, this is not an unusual occurrence. Suprani is among the few journalists who have been brave enough to speak out, yet there are many other organizations that succumb to the pressure of the government and self-censor, a well-documented phenomenon that is not only harmful to the political protest, but also the psyche of the journalists.

In a democracy such as Venezuela, a free press should be a cornerstone of the society; the recent tumultuous political times, however, have somewhat eroded the sanctity of the institution. The death of the much beloved president Hugo Chavez in March posed a danger to the popularity of the already-controversial socialist party. Heated rhetoric and a rushed election date of April 14th have pushed the Venezuelan government into apparent paranoia, and they have shifted from disgruntled by criticism to outright intolerant of it.

Clashes among party supporters, angry and accusatory speeches by the respective candidates and deep divisions in ideology show the unstable state of the nation. Tempers are flaring, and the murder rate at an alarming high. With the government not only encouraging vitriol against writers who dare speak against them, but dragging their feet in prosecuting those who translate their anger to action, Venezuela’s journalists are not unjustified in fearing for their safety. Suprani herself states, “...any Venezuelan that leaves his or her house in the morning runs the risk of not coming back because crime levels are so high…the government doesn’t murder openly, but it has a political reach that protects those responsible from facing justice.”

Whatever one’s political beliefs, it should offend one’s moral conscience that any government feels it has a right not only to control the opinions and words of its population, but to be so blatantly an agent in anything that poses a threat to the well being of its citizens, male or female. Not only is this a political issue, but also a human rights issue. Having an opinion should never be a crime, and threatening a citizen should never go unpunished.

To show your support for Rayma and other journalists in the region, you can follow @raymacaricatura or find her on facebook at

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