Reporters Without Borders' war on Venezuela

by Salim Lamrani, Prensa Latina

Since the election of Hugo Chavez to Venezuela s presidency in 1998, self-proclaimed international media rights watchdog Reporteurs sans Frontieres (RSF) has multiplied the attacks against his government with accusations of attempting against press freedom.

However since 1999, nearly 500 new local and national press organizations (papers, radio stations and TV channels) have emerged countrywide. Recently, the Paris-based organization was offended by the decision of Venezuelan authorities to not renewing its concession to private audiovisual group "Radio Caracas Television" (RCTV) that expires May 28.

The spectrum of Hertzian waves belongs to the State. However, RSF has turned this unquestionably legal decision into "an attempt against editorial plurality"

RSF admitted awareness of "the supportive attitude assumed by RCTV during the coup d etat of April 2002," aimed at undermining constitutional order. But according to the Paris-based entity, not renewing the license to a channel openly involved in a coup that claimed a great number of lives, constitutes a violation of freedom of the press.

Likewise according to RSF, not renewing the license of a channel that also played an active role in the oil sabotage of December 2002 by calling for a total blockade of oil firm PDVSA, which nearly drove the country into bankruptcy, is not a legitimate, wise, indispensable decision, but "a serious attempt on pluralism of the media", which must be condemned.

In such a situation, any other government would have taken severe measures against RCTV. However, despite the people s pressure, President Chavez preferred to wait until the concession s legal expiration, a decision to which most Venezuelans objected, as they could not understand why such a channel was still allowed to broadcast.

This is not a case of censorship whatsoever, as claimed by RSF. RCTV will be able to broadcast by cable or satellite without any difficulty. It will simply not be allowed to use the State-run frequency.

RSF seems to ignore the reality of the media in Venezuela.

It dares to talk about "editorial plurality" when RCTV, Globovision, Venevision and Televe, which control nearly 90 percent of the TV market in an undeniable media monopoly, are "clearly on the opposition side.."

Of course, the Paris-based organization has never denounced such an exclusive right by the media. It has also failed to say that since the coming of Hugo Chavez to power, RCTV s main activity has been to spread false news regarding government policies and encourage disturbance of constitutional order, becoming the podium of insurgent military officers who propose a coup.

In an open letter addressed to President Chavez, RSF Secretary General Robert Menard pretends to ignore RCTV s subversive, evil activities, in a blatant disrespect of journalistic ethics.

According to RSF, to spread false information, constantly discredit government actions, incite the people to disobedience and violence and regularly invite pro-coup generals to vent their hatred against the president of the Republic is not condemnable whatsoever, as this is how the media play their "counterpower" role. After all, "the exercise of authority in a democracy is naturally exposed to criticism by the media".

Sometimes, RSF, in its obsession to present the Bolivarian government as a threat to freedom of the press, falls into absurdity, as it does not know what else to invent. Official publicity, which is a State prerogative, is to be soon in the hands of the Ministry of Communication and Information (MINCI).

The Paris-based organization is worried about this decision, as "this source of income represents an important means of survival for a certain number of media."

What does RSF suggest, then? That the media should be authorized to call for hatred, violence, subversion and Hugo Chavez assassination, in the name of freedom of speech?

RSF presents itself as a nonpolitical organization solely interested in defending freedom of the press, rather than in interfering in Venezuela s internal affairs. But reality is very different.

This is no surprise, as RSF chief correspondent in Venezuela is political scientist Maria Sol Perez Schael, a leading member of the opposition which supported the coup.

No surprise either, as RSF is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA front, an entity created by Ronald Reagan with congressional funds and the objective of promoting US foreign policy worldwide.

Will RSF succeed in deceiving public opinion for a long time?

RSF is not defending freedom of the press in Venezuela.

It is defending US and oligarchy pro-elite, mean interests. Its biased approach to Venezuela s reality and the funds gotten from Washington leave no room for doubt.

Its objective is to portray a democratic, popular government into an authoritarian oppressor of press freedom, and discredit it in the eyes of international public opinion in order to justify an eventual coup or US military intervention.

article originally published at

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey