Friday, June 01, 2007

RCTV - Why It Was Right To Close It Down

An excellent piece in the LA Times (unusual for a Western media outlet) explaining why RCTV had to have its licence revoked:

RCTV's most infamous effort to topple Chavez came during the April 11, 2002, coup attempt against him. For two days before the putsch, RCTV preempted regular programming and ran wall-to-wall coverage of a general strike aimed at ousting Chavez. A stream of commentators spewed nonstop vitriolic attacks against him — while permitting no response from the government.

Then RCTV ran nonstop ads encouraging people to attend a march on April 11 aimed at toppling Chavez and broadcast blanket coverage of the event. When the march ended in violence, RCTV and Globovision ran manipulated video blaming Chavez supporters for scores of deaths and injuries.

After military rebels overthrew Chavez and he disappeared from public view for two days, RCTV's biased coverage edged fully into sedition. Thousands of Chavez supporters took to the streets to demand his return, but none of that appeared on RCTV or other television stations. RCTV News Director Andres Izarra later testified at National Assembly hearings on the coup attempt that he received an order from superiors at the station: "Zero pro-Chavez, nothing related to Chavez or his supporters…. The idea was to create a climate of transition and to start to promote the dawn of a new country." While the streets of Caracas burned with rage, RCTV ran cartoons, soap operas and old movies such as "Pretty Woman." On April 13, 2002, Granier and other media moguls met in the Miraflores palace to pledge support to the country's coup-installed dictator, Pedro Carmona, who had eliminated the Supreme Court, the National Assembly and the Constitution.

Despite the facts behind the revocation of the licence (RCTV can continue to broadcast, the licence merely stops their terrestrial output), lies are still being spread about the nature of the action taken by Chavez. Perhaps the biggest slur on Chavez has been the alleged murder of Andreina Gomez Guevara. According to one media outlet:

At approximately 3:20 p.m. this afternoon in Caracas security forces murdered a Venezuelan student who was taking part in the ongoing peaceful protests against Hugo Chavez's regime, eyewitnesses said.

The student who was killed was named Andreina Gomez Guevara. She was 24 years old and attended UCAB, the Catholic University of Venezuela.

Students inside Venezuela are using the Internet to try to get out news about this murder and these demonstrations to the outside world. They complain that media inside Venezuela has either been silenced or intimidated, preventing a true picture of events there from being reported, and they appeal for help.

Of course, it goes without saying that this is a deeply troubling development if it is true. However, as with so much of the media's reporting of events in Venezuela, it seems unlikely to be accurate. According to another media source:

[ Justice Minister Pedro] Carreno told state-run TV that two suspects were arrested in connection with the killing of a student from the Andres Bello Catholic University who had taken part in the protests. Andreina Gomez Guevara, 24, was shot three times at a gasoline station in Caracas by hired gunmen, Carreno said.

The university issued a statement condemning the shooting, but said it believed the case was unrelated to Gomez Guevara's participation in the protests.

And another:

There have been dozens of injuries and arrests from clashes with police. On Thursday, in an incident which as of yet has not been connected to the clashes, a university student who had taken part in the protests was shot three times and killed at a gasoline station in Caracas.

Two suspects have been arrested for the shooting of Andreina Gomez Guevara, 24, according to Justice Minister Pedro Carreno. The two attackers - a man and a woman - allegedly confessed to killing Gomez Guevara from a motorcycle in exchange for some 4,600 dollars.

The Andres Bello Catholic University condemned the shooting, but said the killing of Gomez Guevara was unrelated to her participation in the protests.

Interestingly, the talk of bullets being fired into the crowd sounds reminiscent of the 2002 coup which RCTV were heavily implicated in. The truth is that the media have spun this beyond any recognition of the reality. The suggestion by one media outlet that the government was responsible for the murder of a demonstrator is yet another example of quite how far some will go to discredit Chavez's revolution in Venezuela. Facts will continue to be lost in the race to condemn a leader who is prepared to stand up for the poor in the face of increasing hostility from the rich.

* A commenter from Biased BBC (they are good for something, if inadvertently) kindly helped me to find this clip from The Onion which could equally be applied to Venezuela: