Wednesday, April 07, 2004

How to read between the lines in Venezuela 

As anyone who follows the Venezuelan private media closely knows honest reporting is not exactly their forte. The overwhelming majority of the private media in Venezuela is extremely hostile to President Chavez and sees its job not as accurately and impartially informing its audience but rather doing anything and everything to remove Chavez from office. Hence from their point of view information is not to be presented in an honest and accurate way but rather to be filtered and presented in a way to cast aspertions on the Chavez government. Whatever may make the government look bad makes the news, regardless of its veracity, while anything that reflects well on the Chavez government is completely ignored and excluded from media coverage.

There are many well known instances of the media's lack of impartiality. Its support for the April 2002 coup, its participation in and support for the lock out of December 2002, and its incitement to violence of February 27, 2004 are just three of the more well known cases.

Aside from these very high profile cases there is the never ending daily propaganda of the Venezuelan media. To extract any usefull information from the media one has to become proficient at reading between the lines. To demonstrate this concept I will give one recent example.

Last week a number of soldiers were very badly burned in western Venezuela. The opposition initially jumped to the conclusion that they were burned as a way of being tortured for having allegedly signed the Revocatory Referendum against President Chavez. The media trumpeted this for several days. The saga of the soldiers has not ended. A number of them are severely injured and one of them died a couple of days ago. This has led to what is the big news in Venezuela, the Communications Minister resigning for having provided inaccurate information to the country regarding the soldiers conditions.

However, while the exact events surrounding the fire that burned the soldiers remain unclear it has come out that none of the soldiers involved signed the petition against Chavez. So what does the opposition media do - does it publish retractions of what it said earlier about the soldiers having signed? No. Do they apologize for their errors? No. Do they in any way acknowledge that they made a mistake and act to correct it? No. But there is one way that one can be certain that in fact the government reports that the soldiers didn't sign the petition are true. And that is that in all articles regarding this incident now all references the the signing of the petition have been dropped. Completely. They simply vanished. And that is how you know those accusations were never true to begin with.

So there you have it, lesson number one on reading between the lines of the Venezuelan press.


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