May 18, 2017

Byline: Venezuela

The Stream hosts a round table of reporters to explore the challenges of covering the ongoing economic and political unrest in Venezuela.

Nearly a month after the "mother of all protests" in opposition to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government, an economic and humanitarian crisis in the country shows no signs of slowing down. Since opposition rallies ramped up last month, clashes between protesters and security forces have resulted in dozens of deaths and countless injuries and arrests. President Maduro says he is the victim of an international conspiracy, but opposition supporters say his recent call to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution is an attempt to restructure the government in his favour.

Those stories have been well documented. But what about the journalists who’ve actually done the reporting? Numerous news sites have been blocked, allegedly without notification, and the Committee to Protect Journalists says journalists covering Venezuela have reported harassment and abuse.

Journalists are often content to stay behind the byline, preferring to let their stories do the talking. But from the frequent sexual harassment experienced by photojournalist Andrea Hernandez, to the anxiety freelancer Aitor Saez feels when he’s hailing an unfamiliar taxi driver or alone in some pro-government “Chavista” neighbourhoods – sometimes, it is the story behind the story that is the most remarkable.

Saez says it’s difficult to even get the whole story when some people refuse to speak with the journalists. Wall Street Journal reporter Anatoly Kurmanaev adds that local press has been decimated, and mainstream outlets have been shuttered by the government or exercised self-censorship, leaving social media as the sole news source for many people. Meanwhile, teleSur – a news outlet started by Venezuela's former leader Hugo Chavez – cites President Maduro’s confirmation of presidential elections in 2018 as evidence that rumors of his march toward authoritarianism have been greatly exaggerated.

The tale of Venezuela’s upheaval is riddled with twists and turns, as both pro- and anti-government actors and media work diligently to not only tell the stories from the streets but, perhaps, control the narrative of the revolution. So, what is life like for journalists working in Venezuela, a nation on the brink of economic and political collapse?

The Stream hosts a round table of journalists who have covered the country, inviting them to open their notebooks and share the challenges they’ve encountered in the field - from the underreported stories to the most recent news.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Melanio Escobar @MelanioBar

Aitor Saez @AitorSaez10

Anatoly Kurmanaev @AKurmanaev
Reporter, The Wall Street Journal

Andrea Hernandez @andrernandez
Photojournalist, El Estimulo

Do you have any questions for journalists covering the ongoing unrest in Venezuela? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.