Monday, July 11, 2005

May the best ideas win 

Here is the howler of the week. The Venezuelan Economic Review, an pro-opposition publication, is complaining that government sponsored media are taking over viewer and readership from the private, largely pro-opposition media. Lets look at some excerpts:

The right to freedom of expression is fundamental and essential in the struggle for the respect and promotion of human rights. Not being able to freely express your opinion, denounce injustices and demand changes condemns the human being to oppression. A free and independent press may be directly responsible for the mitigation of corruption, improving the economy and the market as well as the rights and political services received by the citizens.

So far so good.
A free press is capable of keeping corruption in check by watching over and reporting on the activities of government and business.

Here things start to get a little dicey. Venezuela has had an essentially free press for decades. Yet corruption was rampant and among the worst in the entire world. So I'm not sure how they figure a free press keeps corruption in check.

Unfortunately, in countries such as Venezuela, journalists are not always allowed to complete their journalistic duties, since by simply doing their jobs, they may find themselves in harm's way. Despite the pro-Chavez movement insisting that the Right to Freedom of Expression does exist in Venezuela, the Right of the citizens to an opportune, balanced, undistorted information has been seriously wounded, particularly in regards to the biased informative contents on the part of the communications media administered by the Government.

Ok, now I have to start wondering if this piece wasn't written by someone at Comedy Central. Venezuela has the among the freest and most vociferously anti-government press in the world. Its been that way for six solid years and hasn't changed. It is true that "journalists are not always allowed to complete their journalistic duties" but that is because if they tried to report the news accurately the opposition media would fire them so fast they wouldn't know what happened.

And the comment, "the Right of the citizens to an opportune, balanced, undistorted information has been seriously wounded, particularly in regards to the biased informative contents on the part of the communications media administered by the Government" is just completely surreal. Anyone who has spent even an hour watching the non-stop anti-Chavez propaganda that comes from the opposition media would probably get a hernia from laughing at this. What is the intended audience of this drivel? Who could they possible think they are kidding?

The State has progressively created a great number of communications media which sole purpose - apart from reinforcing its communicational platform to configure a communicational policy that will benefit the regime- is to directly confront the privately-owned media, which in their majority have assumed an oppositionist position to the process led by Hugo Chavez.

And here we get to the heart of the matter: the opposition media doesn't like the fact that it has competition in the market place of ideas. They would much prefer that it were their unrelenting anti-Chavez propagandaa that was the only voice heard. But it isn't. There is pro-Chavez State media which though small has grown in influence. Further community media has flourished. Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, the few private media outlets which have stayed true to reporting news rather than serving as propaganda organs for either side in this conflict have flourished.

In an open information market place like Venezuela no one should have anything to fear from propagandistic and biased media. If they have a partisan agenda other than simply reporting the news then over time they become discredited and lose their audience and influence. And media that reports honestly should flourish at their expense.

This is precisely what has happened in Venezuela. The anti-Chavez media has lost influence due to its years of strident propagandizing. Globovision, Venevision, RCTV, El Universal, El Nacional, Tal Cual are all media outlets that are on trouble. Their viewership and readership is down and even those who still follow them are less likely to accept what they say uncritically. In their place independent media such as Ultimas Noticias, which doesn't toe anyone's line, have flourished with readership reaching record highs.

For years the opposition has claimed that the Chavez administration was going to close or muzzle the media at any moment. They needn't have worrried about that. They would have done well to worry less about what the government was going to do to them and more about what they were doing to themselves.


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