- On past march, Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, denounced the website noticierodigital.com for “having published fake information, announcing the decease of Minister Diosdado Cabello“, and he ordered the Public Ministry to prosecute the case [esp – video]
The fact: In venezuelan Constitution, President doesn't have the attribution to “order” anything to the Public Ministry, since they appear to be two separate and equal State Powers, with very different and delimited competences. However, he did ordered to initiate a legal procedure against Noticiero Digital, and the General Prosecutor obeyed his order. Also, the General Prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Díaz, has said that the General Assembly shall legislate in this matter, letting us see her unknowledge of venezuelan legal frame, since our penal legislation already contains more than enough dispositions on defamation, insult and false information. However, if anything, she wasn't more lost than other political leaders, like Aristobulo Isturiz, ex-minister for Education, who claimed that anyone who uses the Internet is bound by the Law for Social Responsibility, even though the law only covers issues related to radio and television communications.
- The National Assembly has manifested that they will pursue and investigate the comission of this illicit.
The fact: We do live in a country where there are legal bounderies between State Powers, at least in theory, and this ain't a competence of the National Assembly, which function is basically legislate, and not to apply the laws they create. If National Assembly take actions into this matter, they would interfere into the competence field of the General Prosecutor, incurring in what's called “abuse of power”.
- In the website Noticiero Digital, the fake information that raised the conflict remained published by two days. It had been published in one of their forums, by users who, obviously, used pseudonyms and, allegedly, had registered into the website just before they posted the conflictive information.
The fact: There isn't an specific legal tipification for this kind of “digital crimes”, but it's also not needed one. According to our Penal Code, publishing false information is considered a crime, punished with up to five years of prison. Internet, certainly, is not and can not be a territory without law, although its very own characteristics make a lot harder than usual to investigate and determinate if a crime was commited in a particular territory and therefore, under the frame of application of a certain law. However, if anything, the person to be charged with that crime would be whoever posted the false information into the web forum, and not those who run the website, which have a disclaimer that clearly sets responsibilites on opinions and informations published trough the “espaces for participation” of the website, being the user the one and only responsible of their supplied opinions and informations.
What is also true about the crime of false information, is that it's been rarely used against people who actually commit diffusion of news which create panic in the colectivity, but against very specific peoplewho are involved in very specific cases, generally regarding political personalities -or in some occasions, their families-, like this time.
A much better wiew on the issue, here in Global Voices Advocacy: Venezuela: Concerns about controls on the internet.
For more information on the structure of Venezuelan State, see the official document: Estructura del Estado (esp).
Also in spanish, see declarations of ex Minister, Aristobulo Isturiz, here, and declarations of General Prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Díaz, here.