Violent suppression is the most radical way to silence a free press but not the only one. There are subtler methods. Consider, for instance, a proposal the Venezuelan government will present to Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese heads of state at a summit meeting this weekend in Caracas. Claiming he is only seeking to protect the credibility of the media, President Rafael Caldera will propose a "Truthful Information" code of journalistic conduct.
The assumption is that there is "a truth" and that governments are the sole arbiters of what constitutes it. Caldera's intent became clear in a recent speech by one of his officials to the United Nations Organization in New York. His foreign affairs minister argued that the media should not express opinions or otherwise participate in public policy debates, suggesting that instead journalists limit themselves to passing along basic information.
We beg to differ with President Caldera. No government has a copyright on truth, and he should know that because he has been in government a long, long time. Free citizens have proved that they can make decisions themselves.
This is not the first time an authoritarian regime has tried to stifle the free flow of information, of course. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the leaders of several Third World and Eastern Bloc countries tried something similar, proposing the so-called New World Information Order.