Venezuelans were called to vote in a new constituent assembly on Sunday July 30 by president Nicolas Maduro – a vote that was boycotted by the opposition. On social media, supporters and critics of the government went head to head in a "war of images" during the day.
Venezuelan voters were asked to choose the 545 members of a constituent assembly formed by Maduro as the best way of calming tensions in the country. For four months, Venezuela has been shaken by almost daily, violent demonstrations against the government, resulting already in over 120 deaths.
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Theoretically, the newly elected MPs should have certain powers and be able to write a new constitution for the country. But for the opposition, who have had a majority in the Assembly since December 2015, it's just a way of shoring up the powers of the president and securing his position.
According to the National Electoral Council (CNE), 41.53 percent of voters went to vote on Sunday – although that figure was disputed by the opposition, who said that only 12 percent of people voted.
On social media, supporters of the government posted videos of people queued up to vote, while others posted videos of empty and echoing polling stations. While on the one hand, supporters of the government shared videos of people with disabilities determinedly handing in their ballots – like one man on crutches labouring up some steps in Caracas in order to get to a polling station, according to those who shared the video – others shared videos of the rage that was felt by many all over the country.
Check out our video round-up of some of these amateur images here:
"If we want to get 'neutral' information in Venezuela, the only way to do so is to listen to both sides"
There has been a "war of information" in Venezuela since around 2000-2001, when the first rumblings between Hugo Chavez [president of the country between 1999 and 2013] and the media began to start. [In 2002, Hugo Chavez accused privately owned media of having supported the political coup against him]. Now this "war of information" has moved to social media, and it's become a real battleground between supporters of the government and political opponents.
"People are incapable of acknowledging the true things said by the opposite camp"
In fact, each side defends their own point of view and only believes in people that spout the same thing. People are incapable of acknowledging the true things said by the opposite camp. The country is totally polarised at the moment.
This war of information is fuelled by not only government supporters but also its opponents; even if it is easier for the former to get their "information" out through public TV and radio stations. On Sunday they focused a lot on the high rate of participation in the election, for example, but there really weren't many people in the polling stations in Caracas where I was. Lots of people questioned these figures and suspected there was electoral fraud. However, you have to remember that journalists weren't allowed to go near the polling stations...
At the moment, if we want to get 'neutral' infromation in Venezuela, the only way to do so is to listen to both sides.
The "war of information" on social media, censorship and control over public media, violence against journalists... These are the reasons why Venezuela is ranked 137th out of 180 countries in the 2017 press freedom ranking compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
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