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My letter to RSF about Venezuela's RCTV

by nicta Tue May 29th, 2007 at 02:18:44 PM EST

Reporters Sans Frontières goes along the corporate media and the State Department, and condemns Chavez for not renewing the license of right-wing, antidemocratic RCTV.

Here's my letter to them. I don't expect a response, obviously.



Dans votre article http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=22323 vous condamnez la "fermeture" de RCTV.

Pourriez-vous me donner des précisions sur ce qui vous permet de parler de "fermeture"? Sauf erreur de ma part, le gouvernement vénézuélien n'a pas renouvelé la license hertzienne de la chaîne; mais celle-ci est toujours libre de diffuser sans aucune limite sur le câble, le satellite et internet. En quoi ces attributions/révocations de licenses sont-elles différentes de ce qui se pratique en France?

De plus, vous écrivez: "Les motifs invoqués - et notamment le soutien que RCTV avait apporté, avec d'autres médias, à la tentative de coup d'Etat du 11 avril 2002 - sont des prétextes "

Ai-je raison de voir dans ce passage la minimisation de votre part de la gravité d'un coup d'état contre un gouvernement démocratiquement élu? Et si ce n'est pas votre intention, doit-on alors en déduire que vous regrettez que M. Chavez n'ait pas, à l'époque, fait fermr tous les médias complices? Condamnez-vous le fait fait que M. Chavez ait attendu l'expiration légale du contrat de license de 20 ans, plutôt que de suspendre l'état de droit comme il aurait pu le faire avec une certaine légitimité après le coup d'état raté de 2002?

Vos arguments sont bizarres. On peut certainement formuler maintes critiques à l'égard de l'actuel gouvernement vénézuélien; le non-renouvellement_de_la_license_hertzienne de RCTV, et non sa fermeture, n'en font pas partie.

Cordialement,

Translation:


In this article http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=22326 you call for condeming the "closure" of RCTV.

Could you please enlighten me as to what you mean by "closure"? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears the Venezuelian government has merely abstained from renewing the radio frequency license of the station. It is still free to broadcast through cable, satellite and the internet. How is this issue of frequency allocation  different from the way it's handled in France?

Furthermore, you write: "The grounds given for not renewing RCTV's licence, including its support, along with other media, for the April 2002 coup attempt, are just pretexts. Other privately-owned TV stations that supported the coup attempt have not suffered the same fate because they subsequently adopted a subservient attitude towards the regime."

Am I wrong to believe that you are hereby downplaying the importance of a coup d'état against a democratically elected governement? And if that was not what you meant, should I therefore read you as regretting that Mr Chavez had not, at the time, closed all complicit media outlets? Are you condemning Mr Chavez for merely letting the license expire at the end of the 20 year long contract, instead of suspending the rule of law in 2002? Even this would have been somewhat legitimate after a failed coup.

Your arguments are weird. I can imagine there are many arguments to be made against the current venezuelian government. The non-renewal of RCTV's frequency license is not one of them.

Display:
I applaud your effort!

Let us know if you do get a response.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 02:48:34 PM EST
Yes, a good effort at balancing right-wing conventional "wisdom", but you're right not to be optimistic.

It's just our convenient double standard, "It's okay if you are republican" in international terms becomes "It's okay if you are pro-american."

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 03:09:04 PM EST
 Well done.

Cf. FAIR's media advisory:

"Media Advisory

Coup Co-Conspirators as Free-Speech Martyrs
Distorting the Venezuelan media story

5/25/07

The story is framed in U.S. news media as a simple matter of censorship: Prominent Venezuelan TV station RCTV is being silenced by the authoritarian government of President Hugo Chávez, who is punishing the station for its political criticism of his government.

According to CNN reporter T.J. Holmes (5/21/07), the issues are easy to understand: RCTV "is going to be shut down, is going to get off the air, because of President Hugo Chávez, not a big fan of it." Dubbing RCTV "a voice of free speech," Holmes explained, "Chavez, in a move that's angered a lot of free-speech groups, is refusing now to renew the license of this television station that has been critical of his government."

Though straighter, a news story by the Associated Press (5/20/07) still maintained the theme that the license denial was based simply on political differences, with reporter Elizabeth Munoz describing RCTV as "a network that has been critical of Chávez."

In a May 14 column, Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl called the action an attempt to silence opponents and more "proof" that Chávez is a "dictator." Wrote Diehl, "Chávez has made clear that his problem with [RCTV owner Marcel] Granier and RCTV is political."

In keeping with the media script that has bad guy Chávez brutishly silencing good guys in the democratic opposition, all these articles skimmed lightly over RCTV's history, the Venezuelan government's explanation for the license denial and the process that led to it.

RCTV and other commercial TV stations were key players in the April 2002 coup that briefly ousted Chávez's democratically elected government. During the short-lived insurrection, coup leaders took to commercial TV airwaves to thank the networks. "I must thank Venevisión and RCTV," one grateful leader remarked in an appearance captured in the Irish film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The film documents the networks' participation in the short-lived coup, in which stations put themselves to service as bulletin boards for the coup--hosting coup leaders, silencing government voices and rallying the opposition to a march on the Presidential Palace that was part of the coup plotters strategy.

On April 11, 2002, the day of the coup, when military and civilian opposition leaders held press conferences calling for Chávez's ouster, RCTV hosted top coup plotter Carlos Ortega, who rallied demonstrators to the march on the presidential palace. On the same day, after the anti-democratic overthrow appeared to have succeeded, another coup leader, Vice-Admiral Victor Ramírez Pérez, told a Venevisión reporter (4/11/02): "We had a deadly weapon: the media. And now that I have the opportunity, let me congratulate you."

That commercial TV outlets including RCTV participated in the coup is not at question; even mainstream outlets have acknowledged as much. As reporter Juan Forero, Jackson Diehl's colleague at the Washington Post, explained (1/18/07), "RCTV, like three other major private television stations, encouraged the protests," resulting in the coup, "and, once Chávez was ousted, cheered his removal." The conservative British newspaper the Financial Times reported (5/21/07), "[Venezuelan] officials argue with some justification that RCTV actively supported the 2002 coup attempt against Mr. Chávez."

As FAIR's magazine Extra! argued last November, "Were a similar event to happen in the U.S., and TV journalists and executives were caught conspiring with coup plotters, it's doubtful they would stay out of jail, let alone be allowed to continue to run television stations, as they have in Venezuela."

When Chávez returned to power the commercial stations refused to cover the news, airing instead entertainment programs--in RCTV's case, the American film Pretty Woman. By refusing to cover such a newsworthy story, the stations abandoned the public interest and violated the public trust that is seen in Venezuela (and in the U.S.) as a requirement for operating on the public airwaves. Regarding RCTV's refusal to cover the return of Chavez to power, Columbia University professor and former NPR editor John Dinges told Marketplace (5/8/07):

What RCTV did simply can't be justified under any stretch of journalistic principles.... When a television channel simply fails to report, simply goes off the air during a period of national crisis, not because they're forced to, but simply because they don't agree with what's happening, you've lost your ability to defend what you do on journalistic principles.

The Venezuelan government is basing its denial of license on RCTV's involvement in the 2002 coup, not on the station's criticisms of or political opposition to the government. Many American pundits and some human rights spokespersons have confused the issue by claiming the action is based merely on political differences, failing to note that Venezuela's media, including its commercial broadcasters, are still among the most vigorously dissident on the planet.

When Patrick McElwee of the U.S.-based group Just Foreign Policy interviewed representatives of Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists--all groups that have condemned Venezuela's action in denying RCTV's license renewal--he found that none of the spokespersons thought broadcasters were automatically entitled to license renewals, though none of them thought RCTV's actions in support of the coup should have resulted in the station having its license renewal denied. This led McElwee to wonder, based on the rights groups' arguments, "Could it be that governments like Venezuela have the theoretical right to not to renew a broadcast license, but that no responsible government would ever do it?"

McElwee acknowledged the critics' point that some form of due process should have been involved in the decisions, but explained that laws preexisting Chávez's presidency placed licensing decision with the executive branch, with no real provisions for a hearings process: "Unfortunately, this is what the law, first enacted in 1987, long before Chávez entered the political scene, allows. It charges the executive branch with decisions about license renewal, but does not seem to require any administrative hearing. The law should be changed, but at the current moment when broadcast licenses are up for renewal, it is the prevailing law and thus lays out the framework in which decisions are made."

Government actions weighing on journalism and broadcast licensing deserve strong scrutiny. However, on the central question of whether a government is bound to renew the license of a broadcaster when that broadcaster had been involved in a coup against the democratically elected government, the answer should be clear, as McElwee concludes:

The RCTV case is not about censorship of political opinion. It is about the government, through a flawed process, declining to renew a broadcast license to a company that would not get a license in other democracies, including the United States. In fact, it is frankly amazing that this company has been allowed to broadcast for 5 years after the coup, and that the Chávez government waited until its license expired to end its use of the public airwaves."

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3107

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue May 29th, 2007 at 03:44:07 PM EST
Well done. I think the biggest problem in this whole business is that there doesn't seem to be a neutral independent point of view.

Even yesterday in the news, while showing confrontations in the streets between pro-RCTV demonstrators and the police, the news announcer said "RCTV was the only tv station not in control of the state". To my knowledge this could not be more false, and yet this is on probably the most reputed news station here in Portugal.
I checked some sites and discovered that the demonstrators had start shooting at the police. No news on that. But i recognize that those sites are definitely pro-Chavez. I have no way of measuring their bias, if their reporting has it.

Where is truth in the middle of all this militancy?

by Torres on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 06:09:29 AM EST
there doesn't seem to be a neutral independent point of view
Is there ever?
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 07:32:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So it seems. And the fact is truth is not necessarily in the middle.
by Torres on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 07:53:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well done nicta! RSF has good coverage but in Latin America they're on the right-wing dictator side and more in Venezuela reporting than anywhere else.

In today's salon I wrote:
http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2007/5/8/102752/9518#30


From the pro-Chavez site venezuelanalysis.com

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=2053



Venezuela, RCTV, And Media Freedom: Just The Facts, Please

By: James Jordan

Lessons In Curtailing Media Freedom

There are a number of ways to curtail press freedom. You can charge a journalist with murder and put him on death row-Mumia Abu-Jamal, for instance. You can grant special favors, privileges, and access to corporate media giants while raiding and shutting down low-power, independent radio stations, which the FCC does with some regularity. You could arrest independent journalists at anti-war demonstrations-again, a regular occurrence. For instance, I recall my friend and Indy journalist, Jeff Imig, who has been repeatedly threatened with arrest, while recording anti-war demonstrations in Tucson, Arizona, for violating the statute against filming federal buildings. Jeff finally got arrested-for jaywalking! Corporate press, on the other hand, seems to have free reign to jaywalk and film federal buildings at these same events-behavior I and countless others have witnessed!

And then there is the Mother of All Media Manipulations: the blackout engineered by the Bush administration which blocks media from showing the arrival of body bags and coffins of newly dead soldiers "coming home" from Iraq.

Those are some pretty good ways of curtailing freedom of speech. And they're each and everyone home grown right here in the good ol' United States of America.

[...]

Corporate media seems to regularly forget that along with freedom of press is the responsibility of presenting facts to back up their news reporting. Well, dear reader, you are in for a rare treat-a discussion of some actual facts.

The general situation is this: In April of 2002, there was a two-day, illegal coup carried out against Venezuela's electoral government, which involved the kidnapping and jailing of President Hugo Chavez. There were four major media outlets, along with others, who actively aided and abetted this coup (more later). In the intervening five years, none of them were closed, nor were any of their journalists incarcerated. Rather, the Chavez administration met with them, not to change their editorial slant, but to reach agreements preventing a repeat of such anti-democratic measure and the hyperbolic misrepresentation of facts, and also to discourage such continued infractions as the airing of pornography and cigarette commercials.

Another important fact is that the heads of the media-monopoly in Venezuela, including Marcel Granier -owner of RCTV, also participated in the economic sabotage that occurred between 2002-2003. Yet, no one went to prison for endangering the country's social and economic stability.

What is truly amazing is that it has taken five years for the Chavez administration to take action in any way against media that helped carry out this coup. Certainly, if the same thing happened in the United States, it wouldn't be tolerated. Just ask Aaron Burr or Timothy McVeigh what happens when folks plot against the existing, elected government. The fact is.you don't get away with it, you get punished, and pretty severely. Getting their broadcasting licenses renewed would be the least of their problems.

When RCTV's broadcasting license came up for review, Pres. Chavez decided, after exhaustive research and study, not to renew the license. Chavez is legally responsible for renewing such licenses under laws which were enacted before he became president. The reasons given for not renewing the license cite RCTV's participation in the coup, plus the fact that RCTV leads Venezuelan media in infractions of communications laws. RCTV's problems pre-date the Chavez administration, having been censured and closed repeatedly in previous presidential administrations. RCTV leads Venezuela in its violation of communications codes, with 652 infractions.

Another interesting fact is that our corporate media and distinguished Members of Congress have neglected to mention that on April of 2007 the government of Peru did not renew the broadcasting licenses of two TV stations and three radio stations for breaking their Radio and Television laws. It is obvious that Venezuela continues to be a target.

What, then, are the facts behind the charges made by the Chavez administration?

[...]

Double standards and blatantly open hypocrisy are what make terrorist organization so successful today, may be our leaders will one day notice this inconvenient truth?


by Laurent GUERBY on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 02:09:57 PM EST
Huh?

Timothy McVeigh what happens when folks plot against the existing, elected government. The fact is.you don't get away with it, you get punished, and pretty severely
Yes in the USA we generally try to catch, conduct a trial by jury, and execute a punishment which we as Americans have decided to offer as appropriate to the crime, and give that decision to a jury of his peers.  

You really hate America, don't you?

by wchurchill on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 06:32:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
btw, that same system, jury and all of that, found Burr innocent on charges of murder, and later on charges of treason.  funny ole thing, rule of law, democracy, trials by jury of peers, all of that stuff.   Most of us in America still like it.
by wchurchill on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 06:40:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good points wchurchill.
I still do not understand, if individuals broke the law in 2002 then they should be punished for such crimes, but to suspend a license for broadcasting does not seem to have the crime fit the punnishment.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford
by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 08:11:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent point.
by wchurchill on Wed May 30th, 2007 at 08:34:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I still do not understand ...

To understand why most are not in jail you need facts, and those are unfortunately not provided by MSM.

But they are available on the net if you search a bit, since you're willing to spend time posting on Venezuela on ET, I assume you're willing to spend a bit of time to search the net.

And BTW I'm surprised: do you think TV station owners have a perpetual right to emit on the public airwaves? In France a TV station was shutdown a few years ago. Then it was creditors who refused to lend more money, of course that doesn't count as censorship...

On the point, Chavez government offered a deal to TV stations: either you cease to air blatantly false information all the time, or the governement won't renew your licence. All TV channels accepted (they're still hugely critical of Chavez, see youtube) but one. This one didn't get his licence renewed, fair and square.

by Laurent GUERBY on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 02:02:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Try a thought experiment. Imagine the headlines if Chavez had put media owners on trial for enabling a coup.
by Fete des fous on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 04:31:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, yes got that imagined.
And life would go on.
We still may object to the degree of penalties, but if it is rule of law then it is so.

Just as now some here are defending his "rule of law" as the sole decider.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 05:56:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point was that Chavez would also have lost this PR battle even if he had put media barons on trial, and perhaps worse than today. Court decisions would have been portrayed as a sham by western media even though it seems fairly obvious that private TV channels conspired against venezuelan democracy in 2002.

We can all aspire to the most openness in the process of control of national airwaves, but we should keep in mind that these are standards not observed anywhere and we should formulate our criticisms accordingly.

by Fete des fous on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 07:38:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...The government seems to have made the decision without any administrative or judicial hearings. Unfortunately, this is what the law, first enacted in 1987, long before Chávez entered the political scene, allows. It charges the executive branch with decisions about license renewal, but does not seem to require any administrative hearing. The law should be changed, but at the current moment when broadcast licenses are up for renewal, it is the prevailing law and thus lays out the framework in which decisions are made...

Common Dreams. Patrick McElwee

I note that in the US, a local station was shut down (forced to change ownership) due to its racism, France banned Al Manara's TV program from Eutelsat etc.

See this Press Release from the Venezuelan government and note that, as a story in GLW points out:

"It is almost amusing to see this international campaign against this decision by the Chavez government"..."None of these organisations that have been outspoken in relation to the RCTV case have pointed out that at exactly the same time the Peruvian government shut down five to six TV stations. That is, not simply withdrawing their concessions, but actually shutting them down, which is what Chavez has falsely been accused of doing to RCTV.


The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 06:37:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also of relevance is (the now sadly discontinued) Apostate Windbag's rant against RSF a couple of years ago.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 07:54:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes in the USA we generally try to catch, conduct a trial by jury, and execute a punishment which we as Americans have decided to offer as appropriate to the crime, and give that decision to a jury of his peers.  

So, why don't you want to apply the same standard to Venezuela?

You really hate Venezuela, don't you?

(And you should really do something to improve your reading comprehension.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 31st, 2007 at 01:27:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes in the USA we generally try to catch, conduct a trial by jury, and execute a punishment which we as Americans have decided to offer as appropriate to the crime, and give that decision to a jury of his peers.

Huh?  

As in amurka´s treatment of detainees, in Guantanamo and abroad, protestors and possibly any citizen the amoral administration wants to re-label?

Your myopic views are so worn out, I have to wonder if you really limit yourself, or are on some payroll.

Get real, or get huggged.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 07:52:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your myopic views are so worn out, I have to wonder if you really limit yourself, or are on some payroll.

well just to follow insult with insult, your views are retarded and myopic, and you seem to be unable to form an opinion outside of the politically correct views on this website.  

why don't you comment on the charectarization of Timothy McVeigh I was commenting on, and let's see if you can put together a cogent comment.

by wchurchill on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 03:49:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now, let's play a Q&A game:

in what country is currently the lead of the Venezuela coups against a democrally elected government?

I asssume you won't answer this question.

by Laurent GUERBY on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 04:53:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First that post was hard to read.
But I go for Venezuela.
We have HUGO in 92 and others against him from VENEZUELA in 2002.


Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford
by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sun Jun 3rd, 2007 at 07:42:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there was a misunderstanding: I think the case of McVeigh was brought up precisely to praise the US justice system that dealt with that act of terrorism under its existing rules.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 04:35:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That could be, though I didn't read it that way.  but my problem was conveying mass murder as "folks plot against the existing, elected government".  It was this, really
In the children's day-care center directly above the mobile bomb, devastation was horrific. Upper floors collapsed on those beneath them, setting up a chain reaction that crushed everything and everyone below.

<snip>

But what may never come is a child's ability to understand a cruelty that deprived them of a parent or a parent's comprehension of the bitterness that took the life of an innocent child.

Gone in one cataclysmic blast were one hundred and sixty eight lives. Wounded were more than five hundred others. Destroyed were the hopes and dreams of countless friends and relatives.


by wchurchill on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 05:46:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you nicta!  Sent my letter now.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Fri Jun 1st, 2007 at 07:54:57 AM EST


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