The Two Roberts,
Cox and Menard: Threats to Press Freedom
Narco News '02
Venezuela: "The Show Must Go On!"
IAPA: Complicit in 1973 Coup in Chile
SEPTEMBER DAWN, 2002, IN THE VENEZUELAN COUNTRYSIDE: From a white vehicle that passes by a parking
lot, some "unknown persons" throw four molotov cocktails.
On the other side, someone puts out the fires right away: no
victim, no damage. It's just that the parking lot belongs to
a regional affiliate of the commercial TV chain, "Globovision."
1 And that the "attack" happens a few
hours from the official visit to the region by President Hugo
Chávez: and at the precise moment when a tripartite delegation
of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Carter Foundation
and the PNUD are investigating the issue of freedom of speech
Next, Globovision denounces, with grand
visual spectacle, a "Bolshevist attack with grenades."
It broadcasts archival footage of a car-bomb attempt against
a Venezuelan president, decades ago. The editor of the daily
El Nacional, Miguel Enrique Otero 2, without
waiting for any investigation, confirms: "The government
has created para-governmental squads to act against the media
and journalists," and, "Chavez's speech is responsible
for the aggressions." 3. El Nacional's front
page displays an immediate letter from Robert Ménard,
director of Reporters Without
Borders, who demands that the Venezuelan government put an
end to violence against the press.
A week later, when the OAS has left the
country, the daily El Nacional resumes its campaign
of aggressions against the Community Media 4. This time,
the target is the Community Radio station of Antimano. The reporter
mentions a poster on the wall of the studio as proof of its Chavista
nature, and criticizes the fact that the radio station says that
there was a coup d'etat in Venezuela. El Nacional denounces
the "illegality" of this radio station and 100 Community
Media outlets in the entire country. Some weeks ago, the radio
station in El Nacional's target was victim of harassment
by security forces in the hands of the Anti-Chavez opposition.
Its members were liberated after the Community Media movement
took to the streets.
In reality, El Nacional, a key
newspaper in the organization of the coup, rejects, with any
type of argument it can conjure, the possibility of pluralism
of information in Venezuela. Its reporter quotes Miguel Ángel
Martínez, president of the private-sector Chamber of Radio
Industries, who denounces the "illegality" of the Community
Radio stations. Martínez, in the name of the Chamber,
publicly signed the decree of the short-lived coup d'etat last
April. Later, in a public assembly on the tourist island of Margarita,
he asked his affiliates to interfere with the frequencies of
Community Media broadcasters when the next coup comes.
From July to August 2002, Paul-émile
Dupret, a development advisor to the European Parliament,
who videotaped a citizen demonstration together with a team from
Community station Catie TV, and later Nicolas Burlaud, a member
of the pirate TV station Primitivi de Marseille in Italy, and
Alessandro Bombassei, of an independent Italian radio station,
are peppered with rubber bullets by the Metropolitan Police who
work for a ferocious Chávez opponent, Mayor Alfredo Peña.
Dupret receives no less than 40 bullet wounds, one just a few
centimeters from his eye.
When a Congressman named Barreto asked
a journalist from Globovision why his station was silent about
the Bombassei case, the reporter responded: "What is an
Italian journalist doing here in Venezuela?" A little bit
later, Globovision characterizes the Italian (who videotaped
the police shooting with real bullets and with every intent to
kill 5) as "political advisor to Catia TV and the
Community Media." When Ángel Palacios, independent
producer and author of a documentary about the assault on the
Cuban Embassy by the pro-coup forces, broadcast by the only public
TV station, a commercial radio spokesman twice urged his listeners
to go to Palacios' house, noting his address. His wife and daughter
had to hide, as Palacios testified before the OAS on September
14. Add to this the constant surprise visits by unknown persons
to all the Community Media stations to "be able to see the
About this campaign of aggressions, there is not a single protest
waged by "Reporters Without Borders" to the elite owners
of the large commercial media. 7
Why does "Reporters Without Borders" look the other
way when the economic and media elite organize a coup d'etat
and opposition police forces attack journalists from Community
Media? First, because it appears to think that the only repressive
entities are national governments, as if we were still living
in the 19th century. From here, it seems that the "Reporters"
group has a free-market ideology. But if "Reporters Without
Borders" has toed the line of the pro-coup media, it is
probably and above all because it allows them to continue denouncing
a president that it has defined from the beginning as "a
future Castro-like dictator." 8. The silence
of "Reporters Without Borders" over the fundamental
role of the large commercial media in the repression against
Community Media during the April 2002 coup d'etat was the subject
of a detailed analysis by Maurice Lemoine of Le
Monde Diplomatique 9. Lemoine, a specialist
in Latin America who has traveled the region for more than thirty
years, and whose journalistic rigor is difficult to contest,
is not the only journalist who has analyzed the strange attitude
of "Reporters Without Borders." Alberto Giordano, a
journalist with Narco News (www.narconews.com)
has investigated the case of Nicolás Rivera, a Community
Radio journalist, who continues today in the general population
of a prison. Giordano has formulated a long series of public
questions to "Reporters Without Borders," without
any responses from their Ivory Tower.
"Reporters Without Borders" says it is worried about
Chavez's "threats of fiscal audits" of the large Venezuelan
media chains. The "Reporters" group is probably referring
to the millions of dollars taken from the country through the
industrial production of TV dramas whose tapes are sold "by
the pound" by a Panamanian intermediary
are sold as "intellectual works" in Miami. For the
first time, a government not totally identified with these large
companies dares to hold them accountable to the immense social
needs of the country. At these heights, no commercial media outlet
has been sanctioned for fiscal fraud or for its participation
in a coup d'etat.
"We only defend freedom of speech, we're not interested
in the content by the media outlets," repeats the "Reporters"
Even when those media outlets call for
repression against independent media or popular organizations?
Would it be so out of place to ask "Reporters Without Borders"
to investigate with a minimum of seriousness the active complicity
of those "media" with repressive forces, local police
or paramilitary groups, and their direct involvement in numerous
and persistent Human Rights violations, not only against the
In September, our Community TV station, Teletambores, has produced
various reports about the struggle for land in the state of Yaracuy.
The farmers complain of harassment, torture, numerous assassinations
and "disappearances" committed by local police in service
of the opposition that is opposed to a moderate agrarian reform
proposed by President Chávez. Some of these reports were
broadcast by VTV, the only public television station, and a while
later by Zalea TV in Paris, that defends, in France, the Freedom
of Audiovisual Speech. The farmers bitterly complain that none
of the large commercial media has reported the repression. Clearly,
the media falls silent when there are massive assassinations
because its owners belong to the same economic
groups as the plantation owners. Even worse: those "media"
outlets widely justify the bloody repression by calling the farmers
without land who are planting on the first acres resulting from
the agrarian reform "terrorists," and, "invaders
trained by the Cubans," etcetera.
The disproportion between the public show by these "media"
outlets in the cases of very opportune "attacks" and
their hiding of massive Human Rights violations is impressive.
If the Community Media has one vital task,
it is to reinvent the idea of information, because the commercial,
monopolistic TV stations - sub-copies of United States television
- have destroyed that very concept. It's as if no International
Convention of Journalism ever existed. It's "anchors"
interrupt their brief news items during the programs to sell
all kinds of products - shampoo, fashion clothes, miracle creams
- without any type of transition. The "news reporters"
are reduced to parrot a unilateral and obsessive form of political
propaganda. They are absolutely racist (you won't see a black
anchorperson, for example) when the population is, in a large
part, of African origin. What's more, they've always looked with
scorn upon the popular neighborhoods where 80-percent of the
population lives, describing them as the ultimate bastions of
hell, of vice, of delinquency, and calling for an iron fist against
It's an old trick of History that private-sector communication
businesses pass themselves off as "information media."
This permits them to invoke "freedom of speech" when
they see their economic interests threatened. From there, their
fevered search for international and "super-objective"
allies. The "super-objectivity" displayed by the letters
authored by "Reporters Without Borders" gives the campaign
by the commercial media great efficiency in circulating around
the world, for example, among other Human Rights organizations
who believe "Reporters Without Borders" without question.
"Reporters Without Borders" did not exist when Armand
Mattelard analyzed the alliance between the large comercial media
with the Inter-American Press Association
(IAPA, an organization of large Latin American newspaper companies)
to topple the Allende government in Chile in 1973 10.
"The judicial investigation of the administration of the
daily El Mercurio, accused of fiscal irregularities, has
served as an excuse to denounce supposed coercive measures against
the 'free press'
The message emitted by the upper-class
Chilean daily then repeats IAPA's report, backed now by the authority
conferred by the fact that it was reproduced abroad. We are witnessing
the tautology of the IAPA. It's campaign results to be no more
than a giant biting of its own tail."
graduated from the Hautes Etudes Institute in Social communications,
Brussells, 1985. An independent journalist and correspondent
of Zalea TV in Paris, he is a co-founder of the Community TV
station Teletambores in Maracay, on Channel 40 UHF.
Globovisión is one of the multinational corporations that
played a central role in the "media coup d'etat" against
the Venezuelan president in April 2002. The commercial TV stations
don't hesitate to fabricate evidence at any hour. From this came
the report of the "pro-Chavez ambush", the fruit of
the manipulation of selective editing of video, as it demonstrated
a synchronized report to characterize persons who defended their
lives against various snipers placed by the pro-coup forces atop
office buildings as "Chavist assassins." This version,
broadcast widely around the world, was used as the basis for
the statement by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer's
statement that "Chávez ordered the shooting of the
Otero is famous for his editorial celebrating a coup d'etat as
a victory for democracy.
El Nacional, April 14, 2002.
The same United States Embassy regularly calls the Community
Media stations to ask "when can we visit?"
... when José Miguel Vivanco, who came to Venezuela on
a mission in the name of Human Rights Watch, didn't hesitate
to criticize the commercial media severely.
Without Borders" declares: "Hugo Chávez, president
of Venezuela and a great admirer of Fidel Castro, raised concern
with his inflammatory statements against the media and observers
wondered if the former soldier and author of a failed coup in
1992 would turn into a dictator. The verbal threats of previous
years grew in 2001 to include new kinds of intimidation such
as a threat to withdraw a TV station's broadcasting licence,
the threat of a tax inspection and a supreme court ruling that
would curb press freedom. " The Reporters group receives
most of its financing from the European Union. "He who pays
the orchestra chooses the music." Presided over by Spain
and very conscious of the oil interests of Spanish banks, the
European Union avoided condemning the coup d'etat of April, contradicting
its democratic slogans.
Mattelard, Armand. "Communication and Mass Culture"
Diógenes Publishers, México, 1976.
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