Hey, remember Derwick Associates? The guys who recently accused me of being part of a global defamation conspiracy because I:
1. Reposted a deleted article about the company, originally posted at DevilsExcrement.com, which mostly rehashed stuff from reporting originally found in an article by Venezuelan reporter César Batiz in the newspaper Últimas Noticias
2. Laughed at the lawyer letter they sent me demanding I take down that page
3. Gave Batiz evidence that the FBI and US Treasury Department had looked at articles about Derwick on this website
4. Wrote a little note pointing out that there are databases out there to show Derwick’s connection to planes that are registered through anonymizing services
I don’t think this is really about defamation, as nobody has yet told me how anything I have said was defamatory. Instead, they just seem very keen on avoiding press attention.
Personally, I find this all pretty funny, as their efforts have been mostly self-defeating. At first I didn’t care much about this Derwick case. But these guys couldn’t just sit there and let the skeptical reporting go. They had to attack. And now, they are looking ever more interesting.
But the laugh riot doesn’t end there. Because now, Venezuela’s “intelligence” police — or someone claiming to represent them — have joined the fun, thereby guaranteeing even MORE attention on this extraordinarily successful company.
Now, I have never wanted to be one of those people who slams Venezuelan civil rights violations while ignoring much more serious violations elsewhere. I am the first to recognize that this situation is not the world’s gravest violation of civil rights, and that it pales next to what, for example, the US — a country where I happen to be a citizen and taxpayer — is doing to Bradley Manning. But just because lots of governments harass the press doesn’t make it OK.
The Venezuela Press and Society Institute reports (my translation):
Author of investigative reports on electric sector is cited by supposed officer of the intelligence police and intimidated by contractor company
December 18, 2012, the domestic electricity sector contractor company Derwick Associates issued a statement in the private print medium El Nacional containing intimidating and derogatory messages regarding journalistic research published by César Batiz, politics coordinator at the private, nationally circulated daily Últimas Noticias.
[Lengthy summary of César’s reporting. If you want a Google-translate version of the summary — which is worth reading if you want to get up to speed on the Derwick case — click here. But to cut to the latest…]
Bribes to silence investigations
During his investigation, Cesar Batiz went to Derwick Associates company headquarters in Caracas in August 2011. They said that they could not meet with him because he had not arranged an appointment. According to the account he gave to Ipys Venezuela, bodyguards kicked him out.
Throughout this time the journalist has received threats, pressure and bribery attempts. As he told Ipys Venezuela, via a telephone call from a third party on August 6, 2011, someone offered money for the reporter not to continue investigating the subject.
Similarly, on December 19, 2012, he was summoned, by telephone, by someone claiming to be an officer of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), also attached to the National Electricity Corporation (Corpoelec), which is under the Electric Energy Ministry. In what Batiz described as an intimidating manner, the caller also told him the Security and National Defense Act allows a telephone summons, and that he needed to present himself to SEBIN headquarters, in Plaza Venezuela, Caracas, or to Corpoelec headquarters, also in the capital.
Similarly, in November 2012, the same official called the journalist’s mother’s house to ask about him. The official also said they were investigating reports that Batiz had published. Days later, Batiz and the official spoke by telephone in a cordial manner, and the commissioner said he wanted to meet with him to know where he had gotten information about this case. The official’s request is contrary to the confidentiality protection of journalistic sources, guaranteed by Article 28 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Article 8 of the Journalism Practice Law.
In the same call the supposed official told him that the SEBIN was engaging in an “administrative process” on the case, but gave no details on who was the target of the investigation. The official asked if Batiz could come in to the offices of the intelligence unit, to which Batiz replied that he could visit the newspaper to discuss the matter. Later, Batiz called and asked why he had not visited the newspaper, and he replied that the Minister for Electric Power, Hector Navarro, had not authorized his attendance at the agreed meeting, and that he would call to coordinate.
Prior to these events, after the first 2 posts on the case, Nelson Rivera, president of strategic communications agency Cuaderna Vía Communicaciones, and member of the Editorial Board of El Nacional, which provides advisory service to Derwick Associates, approached Mely Luz Reyes, who at the time was head of investigations and immediate superior to Batiz at Últimas Noticias, lobbying in favor of the representatives of the PDVSA contractor. In those days he had a personal meeting with Batiz, on the same terms. Also, several statements were published in national print media to defend the contractor’s reputation.
Batiz also said that after September 18, 2011, he was offered a bribe, in which he was offered a management position in a private digital media outlet based in Caracas and oriented toward Latin America, so he would abandon his research on irregularities in electric industry procurement, with the specific condition that “could never again mention Bariven.” He was offered an advance payment of 200,000 bolivars (a little more than $46,000), plus a monthly salary of 50,000 bolivars (about $11,600), with 12 months of work guaranteed.
Given these incidents, the Venezuela Press and Society Institute urges the Venezuelan State to ensure that the journalist Cesar Batiz and other members of the profession may perform their journalistic research work without risk, following constitutional guidelines.
So just to sum up, someone claiming to be from the intelligence police told César Batiz to come in to that agency or the electric company offices, and claimed that the telephone summons was binding under some national security law. Gotta love that from a country with this in its constitution:
Anyone … may, as well, access documents of any nature containing information of interest to communities or group of persons. The foregoing is without prejudice to the confidentiality of sources from which information is received by journalist, or secrecy in other professions as may be determined by law.