From Argentina to Venezuela, [social change] governments have [rightly] identified the media as a political obstacle.
Editors’ Note: This piece is published for informational/topical value. Readers must keep in mind the Guardian (U>K>) is a liberal not radical publication. As such it gives undue credit to Reporters Sans Frontières, an organization of equivocal allegiances being used tacitly or wittingly by US propaganda agencies. During Dr. Salvador Allende’s tragic tenure, the Chilean media was vicious in its flagrant agitation for a coup and constant slander of the revolutionary objectives and major leaders. The nation’s main media group then, headed by El Mercurio (equivalent to the New York Times), was unceasing in its tendentious, inflammatory coverage. Years later, the Church committee hearings in the U.S. corroborated the treacherous role played by the Chilean media barons, including the fact that El Mercurio was receiving ample support from the CIA, which it scarcely needed anyhow.
By Rory Carroll [print_link]
The Guardian (U.K.)
<< José Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch monitor “for the Americas.” Vivanco has castigated President Chavez for supposedly repressing the Venezuelan media-which, if he had, would be amply deserved. Liberals like Vivanco, well embedded in the U.S. establishment, are simply blind to—or pretend not to see—the brutal requirements of unleashed class struggle, which is an all-out clash between two mutually exclusive visions of governance. Disregarding the grotesque differences in the magnitude of the contenders, critics like Vivanco would like to hold revolutionary governments to the strictest rules of peacetime bourgeois “propriety” thereby allowing the capitalist media total freedom to continue sowing lies and chaos with impunity. (See bottom of this article for more discussion on this topic. —Eds.)
Television networks, radio stations and newspapers have become political battlegrounds pitting media owners and journalists against governments in South America. Charismatic presidents in the Andean states, and in Argentina, have identified the media as a principal obstacle to their efforts to transform the region. The subjects of clashes range from Caribbean slums, where journalists are accused of exaggerating crime, to icy Patagonian resorts, where they are accused of confecting corruption scandals.
South America’s media war started, and remains most intense, in Venezuela. When Hugo Chávez swept to power a decade ago, promising to oust discredited elites, the media feted him. But they turned with a vengeance and backed a coup that briefly ousted him in 2002.
Chavez struck back: he expanded the state’s media empire and cowed private broadcasters. This year he shut dozens of radio stations and said Globovision, the last critical TV voice, would follow. It promoted his assassination, he said, and hyped murder rates in the slums. [What Guardian says here as if it were only a dubious claim is a fact. —Eds]
Benoît Hervieu, of Reporters Sans Frontières, says Chávez had a legitimate grievance over the media’s behaviour in 2002 but had gone overboard in his “repressive” response.
José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, goes further: “With the exception of Cuba, Venezuela is the only country in the region that shows such flagrant disregard for universal standards of freedom of expression.”
Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, described the media as his “greatest enemy” and denounced journalists as “corrupt, mediocre, shameless”. He sent police to seize two TV stations in a debt dispute and promised to shake up the awarding of radio and television frequencies.
Correa proposed a bill to create a media watchdog and oblige those who work in the industry to have a journalism degree. Critics dubbed it the ley mordaza, gag law, and have delayed it in congress.
Colombia ostensibly has a free press despite insurgencies by narco-trafficking leftist guerrillas. But big private media groups are controlled by a few rich families and muffle criticism of President Álvaro Uribe, an ally of the US.
Outspoken journalists who expose government links to rightwing paramilitary death squads are often killed or exiled. A Bogotá media seminar co-sponsored by the British NGO Cafod was awash with stories of self-censorship, intimidation and threats.
In Argentina, President Cristina Kirchner won a bitter battle against Grupo Clarín, one of Latin America’s biggest media conglomerates, by opening the airwaves to new players. Clarín, which also lost its contract to broadcast championship football, said the president was punishing critical news coverage, including stories about the first couple’s alleged dodgy land deals in Patagonia. Analysts said Kirchner had a political agenda but that broadcast reform was overdue.
THE HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CONTROVERSY—What’s behind HRW’s animosity toward the Bolivarian Revolution?