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Debunking the official bunk re RCTV

By Alex Beech

23-06-07 | Editor's note: fellow blogger Alex Beech wrote a fantastic piece recently in her blog (http://alexbeech.blogspot.com) about the bunk that Chavez's minions are propagating around the world with respect to the illegal closure of Venezuela's oldest and most watched TV channel. One thing the tinpot dictator doesn't tolerate is criticism. As such citizens of developed countries are used to the regular grilling that some media networks give to elected officials. After all holding public servants to account is one of the fundamental pillars of democracy. In the USA one can see that individuals that have made a career mocking the highest officials are not only regarded within society but very successful and even exalted to iconic status worldwide. Needless to say that I am referring to Michael Moore. Generally speaking in the UK we have more serious or should I say responsible media. It's not 100% fair or accurate, but at least it tries to be, there are regulatory bodies to ensure that regulations are followed, although ultimately regular citizens are every bit as much at the mercy of the unelected media power as they would be in Chavez's kangaroo courts. Upon revision of the talking points that paid apologist keep repeating I keep reaching the same conclusion "if freedom of expression is so widespread in Venezuela, where are our Michael Moores, our Jeremy Paxmans?" I certainly would love to mock the deranged behaviour of the soldier from Barinas, however what are the chances of pulling it and then being able to broadcast it to the nation? What are the chances of me, or anyone else for that matter, shooting a documentary or producing a Newsnight type of programme whereby I can tell Chavez that he's got innocent blood all over him, so that the whole country can see it? I tell you what the odds are, the same as those of a Cuban with Castro or a Zimbabwean with Mugabe. Contrastingly today I read on the BBC website that RCTV had backed a coup against Chavez in 2002. So in customary fashion I sent the following question to the complaints department:

What evidence have you got, apart from the rants of President Chavez a coup leader himself, about RCTV backing the coup attempt in 2002? Please feel free to inform me and the wider audience about pending court cases in which RCTV stands accused of backing coup d'etats in Venezuela.

Again, what are the odds of the Beeb either retracting such commentary or indeed supporting that contention with evidence? You all know the answer. There's no freedom of expression in Chavez's fiefdom neither democracy or any resemblance to accountability.

The one thing I would like to add to Alex's debunking piece is the predicament that goes "the opposition controls 80% of the media in Venezuela," which is absolute bullshit, as everything else. Quite the opposite, the only media that Chavez does not have under his boot, not for long though, are Globovision (news channel unavailable in many parts of the country), Meridiano (sports channel) and VALE TV (religious channel from the Church). The rest, as Venevision's journalists that I met during the campaign know all too well, have surrendered and are forbidden from uttering any criticism or broadcasting views contrarian to the regime's mantras. Regarding print having Michu Capriles, his Cadena and regional sidekicks by his side guarantees that the people are constantly fed the official side of the story.

On the positive side the leaders of the student movement that's rising against tyranny in my country have understood that Chavez can illegally close channels, confiscate its equipment and take pretty much everything he wants from us but the ideal of freedom. This coupled with the utterly materialistic and capitalistic nature of all Venezuelans is reassuring: communism in 21st century Venezuela is an utopia.


Debunking the Bunk

They keep coming.

Emails and articles loaded with arguments justifying the silencing of a major television network in Venezuela. The arguments, published on websites funded by the Venezuelan government in Washington and elsewhere, have been regurgitated throughout the country through viral email campaigns mimicking grassroots efforts.

Here are a few, and my response.

ARGUMENT #1

The government's decision was "legal and legitimate one based on their constitution which guarantees and regulates the access and use of airwaves for the benefit of the general public."

Legal and legitimate are loaded words, right? To keep it simple, let's say that "legal" is following the law. Here's a little legal information, just for kicks: in May, 1987, the government published a decree numbered 1577. This degree was published in an "official gaceta", a document which contains all government decrees. That document was numbered 33,796, in case anyone is interested in reading the law. Included inside that decree is an article which states that licences (or concessions) shall be automatically renewed for a period of twenty years, when "always and when all regulations have been met." Automatically is a pretty straightforward word, but for those out there scratching your heads, "automatic" means, "Acting or operating in a manner essentially independent of external influence or control."

Call me crazy, but if the regulations were met, the law is pretty clear. The licence should have "automatically been renewed." Oh, says Glover and the Venezuela Information Office. But the regulations weren't met. What regulations? Under what legal system was the evidence of a breach presented? In what court were the "regulations" described? In what court did RCTV exercise its legal right to defend itself? There was no court case. There was no legal proceeding. No one notified RCTV. It just happened. Legal and legitimate what?

(By the way, a legal notification doesn't take place on television. Yes, Chavez's threats don't count.)

ARGUMENT #2

RCTV "has not been silenced, for it can continue broadcasting by cable, satellite and Internet!"

With a 20% inflation rate, asking the poor to subscribe to cable, and/or buy a satellite dish, and/or buy a computer and subscribe to an Internet service smacks of...discrimination? RCTV's position on channel two (Very High Frequency), combined with its transmission equipment, guaranteed that anyone with a TV and an antennae could see it. Around 35% of Venezuelans tuned in every day, making it the most watched network in the country. Where is RCTV today? Can any Venezuelan with a television watch it? No.

That, my friends, is SILENCING.

ARGUMENT #3

The RCTV "programming has been sexist, racist and pejorative."

Was it "sexist" when Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Juan Barreto - a member of Chavez's (most) inner circle - said, "You can't trust an animal that bleeds every month when it hasn't been injured, the woman."

Or when Chavez said on national television to the former First Lady on Valentine's Day in 2000, "Prepare yourself, Marisabel, because tonight you're getting what's yours."

Or when Chavez addressed US Secretary of State Rice by saying, "How are you? You've forgotten me, missy ..."

Or, when in another speech, Chavez said Secretary Rice, "continues to show she is a total illiterate. It seems she dreams of me. I could invite her meet with me to see what happens. First she said she was angry. The next day she said that she felt sad and depressed because of Chavez. Oh daddy! Forget about me. That lady has such bad luck! I won’t make that sacrifice for the country. Let someone else do it. Cristobal Jimenez, Nicolas Maduro or Juan Barreto, who is single”.

I can't imagine how those statements would be interpreted as anything other than sexist and vulgar, and yet these two men are televised on every network, and no one has accused them of "sexism."

Concerning RCTV's purported racism, could there be more diversity on television? Yes, in Venezuela and everywhere, including the US. Is anyone protesting in front of Univision, BET, Bravo, CBS, NBC, UPN, ABC and Telemundo? Not the last time I checked. And since when is race an excuse to silence a television network?

Finally, the word "pejorative", which means "having a disparaging, derogatory, or belittling effect or force."

Never in the history of Venezuela has a president belittled his own people as Chavez has. No, he hasn't belittled his supporters, (I know what you were going to say, Glover!) I mean, those who don't agree with him, who signed against him, who voted against him - all constitutional rights. He has called them, "squalids, coup-plotters, CIA agents, brain-washed"...and the list goes on. He called Bush and OAS Secretary General Insulza "pendejo" - which literally means pubic hair, and figuratively means asshole or idiot. We may not like either men - but we may not, as presidents, go around calling others "pubic hair" without being "pejorative." And yet no one has insisted that Chavez be removed from television.

ARGUMENT #4

RCTV "actively participated in the 2002 coup against President Chavez" because it "prohibited its reporters to broadcast Chavez's reinstatement in office."

To actively participate in a military coup, don't you have to call the military to take up arms against a president? Did RCTV call on the military to take up arms against Chavez? Has any Venezuelan court determined that those events were, in fact, a "coup"? (I'll publish any court decision you send me stating that the events were a "coup.") The other privately owned networks also failed to report the re-instatement of Chavez. Why were their licenses renewed? Could it be because they changed their editorial stance to favor the government? As government special envoy Roy Chaderton recently said to Dow Jones in Madrid, "with the other stations, we took a political decision. They have rectified and the government considered it positive for democracy." Does that sound like the government was upset over a coup, or over an editorial stance? Chaderton's words were repeated in New York by Consul General Leonor Osorio, who said, "The renter has behaved badly. His contract wasn't renewed." This folks, is censorship and persecution.

According to one RCTV insider, there was a reason that reporters didn't venture into the streets on April 13th and 14th. After the shooting and killing of demonstrators by snipers on April 11th 2002, the country was in chaos, and many editors chose to ask network news reporters to stay home until further notice. [In my original post, I added this paragraph because I believed it was important to provide RCTV's "reason", especially since they haven't had a right to present their side in any court. However, I question why they didn't provide information from the studio, if safety was the issue. I tend to side with those who believe that RCTV's decision for the news black-out was editorial and political, though I don't have proof, either way. Again, this was NOT the reason the government silenced RCTV. Otherwise, it would have applied the same measures to the other privately owned networks which also participated in the news black-out.]

Truth Commission" to determine what exactly took place April 11-13, despite an accord reached between the government and the opposition under the mediation of the Carter Center and the Organization of American States which called for a thorough investigation of the sad events.

Finally, let's get real here. The government run and controlled media doesn't cover opposition events, including the student protests that recently roiled the nation. Any time hundreds of thousands of protestors crowd the streets, the government media uses the image of one empty street or avenue to "depict" the protest. Reporters from banned networks (Globovision, and until recently RCTV) aren't allowed to enter many government functions. Government leaders, including Chavez, insult reporters who question them in any way. Chavez takes over the airwaves whenever he feels like it by forcing networks to broadcast his speeches. This revolution has been televised and televised and televised and televised and televised. Ad nauseum.

ARGUMENT #5

"The FCC in the US would have immediately shut down a television network if it broadcast statements calling for the removal of Bush."

Let's envision that scenario. Rosie O'Donnell goes on National Television and starts saying that Bush needs to be removed from office. Oh wait! That probably already happened. Let's use another example. A prominent general says that Bush needs to be removed from office. He states, "I call on all soldiers to attack the White House." Would the government go after the network or after the general? And if, by chance, Katie Couric joined the general in calling for the removal of Bush, wouldn't the FCC investigate, and possibly fine her network? And wouldn't Congress call for hearings? And would there be lawyers and yes, DUE PROCESS? Please stop saying that the FCC would automatically shut down a television network. It's simply false.

Conclusion

In an interview with the Philadephia Inquirer on May 17, actor/producer Danny Glover said that "a foundation of democracy is due process."

Clearly, there was no due process in the RCTV case, and therefore the government's decision was both illegal and illegitimate.

In the same article, Glover states "In a democracy, it is important that all sides of a situation are heard not just the side that's coercively fashioned for us to hear."

Unfortunately, by Mr. Glover's criteria, Venezuela is no longer a democracy. Every VHF channel in Venezuela now only airs one side, and that is Chavez's side. Fortunately for Mr. Glover and Chavez's apologists in the United States, it is the side that they ardently defend.



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