Mobile news - live and a hop away

A group of young Venezuelan reporters has taken to hopping on board buses to present the news, as part of a project to keep people informed of the latest events in the face of government censorship.
A group of young Venezuelan reporters has taken to hopping on board buses to present the news, as part of a project to keep people informed of the latest events in the face of government censorship.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CARACAS • Short of newspapers, Venezuelans are getting updates about their country's deadly political crisis live - acted out by reporters on the bus to work.

Ms Maria Gabriela Fernandez and Mr Dereck Blanco stand on board inside a black frame. "El Bus TV", reads a sign over their heads. It is less comfortable than in a TV studio - they have to hold on with one hand to stop themselves from falling when the dilapidated bus brakes. But it is one way of escaping government censorship.

"The idea came from the need to break away from the news circus in this country," said the group's creative editor Claudia Lizardo.

In three minutes, Ms Fernandez and Mr Blanco deliver news on health, safety, sports, entertainment and, naturally, economics and politics in a country stricken by food shortages and deadly riots.

Clashes at daily protests calling for President Nicolas Maduro to quit have left 66 people dead since April 1, prosecutors say. The Bus TV team digs out original angles on the demonstrations, which are not shown on state TV.

"Each tear gas canister costs US$40 (S$55). At the black market exchange rate, that is 200,000 bolivars, or a whole month's salary," Mr Blanco tells the passengers.

"Economic news now: a kilo of chicken wings costs 9,700 bolivars (S$1,300)."

Mr Blanco is a presenter on a national TV channel but does Bus TV out of frustration over official "pressure" not to cover certain subjects.

"Journalists have to reinvent themselves so that the news can reach the people," he said.

The team hops on and off buses, with the permission of the drivers, who often let the reporters ride for free.

"I think it is important for them to report to us what it is happening, to open our eyes," said passenger Glenda Guerrero, a 68-year-old housewife.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2017, with the headline 'Mobile news - live and a hop away'. Print Edition | Subscribe