[Marxism] Mark Weisbrot - Eyes Wide Shut: The Int'l Media Looks at Venezuela

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue Aug 14 11:04:32 MDT 2007

Eyes Wide Shut: The International Media Looks at Venezuela
By Mark Weisbrot
International Business Times
August 13, 2007


Most consumers of the international media will be surprised to find
that the controversy over Venezuela's oldest TV station, RCTV, is
still raging. We were repeatedly informed that President Hugo Chavez
"shut down" the station on May 27th. But in fact the station was
never "shut down" ? since there is no censorship in Venezuela.
Rather, the Venezuelan government decided not to renew the broadcast
license that granted RCTV a monopoly over a section of the
publicly-owned frequencies.

This is a big distinction, although the U.S. and international press
blurred it considerably. Jose Miguel Insulza, the head of the
Organization of American States, noted last month that the
"Venezuelan government is empowered to do what it did (non-renewal of
the license)" and cited Brazilian President Lula Da Silva's statement
that not renewing RCTV's broadcast license was as democratic an act
as granting it. Insulza added that "democracy is very much in force
in Venezuela."

These comments were not reported in the U.S. or other major media.
Nor was Lula's original statement of the same argument. Nor was the
statement of Lula's top foreign policy advisor, Marco Aurelio Garcia,
who said "there are few countries in the world with as much freedom
of the press as in Venezuela."

RCTV has not laid off any of its 3000 employees, and may reach as
much as half the population through its cable and satellite
operations. But the station is now battling the government again,
claiming that it should not be subject to government regulation ?
including the law, which pre-dates Chavez, that domestic stations
carry the president's speeches -- because it is an international
station. The government argues that RCTV is a domestic outlet because
almost all of its production and audience are in Venezuela.

This month Venezuela's Supreme Court blocked the government from
enforcing its order against RCTV on the grounds that the definition
of "national audiovisual producer" was not clear enough.

RCTV's owner, Marcel Granier, is an opposition leader who seeks to
de-legitimize the Venezuelan government. He has had some success in
this effort, most importantly in April 2002 when his station faked
film footage to make it look like pro-Chavez gunmen were shooting
down demonstrators on the streets of Caracas. This and other
manipulations by the Venezuelan media helped provoke a military coup
against the elected government. This is one of several reasons that
the government of Venezuela declined to renew RCTV's broadcast

Granier's most recent international organizing effort this year was
also very successful. The international press glossed over RCTV's
various attempts to help overthrow the government, reporting the
dispute as an issue of "press freedom," and seemed unaware that such
a TV station would not get a broadcast license in the U.S. or any
other democratic country.

Granier is betting that the international media and other
U.S.-dominated institutions will also frame his current battle as a
"free speech" issue, rather than a legal dispute over whether his
station is a national channel and hence subject to the same
regulations as other Venezuelan cable stations. This is a good bet.

But then there is the Venezuelan reality, which is what Chavez and
his government really care about. While most Americans and Europeans
can be swayed by their one-sided media, Venezuelans get to hear both
sides of this story. Venezuelans can turn on their TV and see
extremely harsh criticism of their government every day. They can
turn on their radio and find the airwaves actually dominated by
anti-government "news" broadcasting. They can walk to a newsstand and
find that most of the biggest newspapers are also dominated by
anti-government reporting.

So Venezuelans know that there is no "free speech" problem in their
country. While there are problems with the rule of law, including
street crime ? as throughout most of the region ? Venezuelans have
not suffered a loss of civil liberties under the Chavez government,
as we have for example in the United States since 2001. That is one
reason why Hugo Chavez was re-elected in December by the largest
margin of the 12 most recent Latin American presidential elections,
despite facing an opposition-dominated media. Democracy is indeed
"very much in force in Venezuela."

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy
Research in Washington, D.C. His expertise includes Economic growth,
trade, Social Security, Latin America, international financial
institutions, development

Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
writer - photographer - activist

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