Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Chavez and RCTV

When following the news from Venezuela, if one is interested at all in understanding the situation, one must take one's US media with a grain of salt. They have long toed the opposition line. In the case of RCTV, the opposition television station whose license was not renewed, the US press has basically turned the story into one of a dictator's attempts to censor and stifle dissent. This line is so simple it's stupid.

Now, the opposition has reasonable beefs with the Chavez government. If Chavez started picking apart the press and media in Venezuela, I'd be very worried too. But he's not doing that. There are also reasonable criticisms to be made against the opposition and its media. While the Venezuelan opposition and most US media representations will decry an alleged assault on freedom of speech in Venezuela, it must be remembered that 75% of the media in Venezuela is owned and operated by the opposition. Five years since the coup against Chavez, openly supported and abetted by the station, RCTV's public airways license has not been renewed. It remains free to broadcast through cable or satellite. It has never been a sanctuary of free speech because its political mission was severely anti-Chavez and it has consciously tailored stories bordering on falsity to transmit the anti-Chavez mission. It has not allowed counterpoints from the Chavez government. Now it is a martyr for free speech?

Here's the standard story from Time: Is Chavez Stifling the Media?
And from Reuters: Venezuela's Chavez widens attack on opposition media.

Here's an alternative discussion from Common Dreams: Is Free Speech Really at Stake? Venezuela and RCTV.

And here are three pieces explaining the broader context and issues behind the situation:

FAIR: Coup Co-Conspirators as Free-Speech Martyrs: Distorting the Venezuelan media story.
UN Observer: Venezuela, RCTV, and Media Freedom: Just the Facts, Please.
LA Times: Hugo Chavez versus RCTV.

Read all of the above pieces. Now, tell me where you stand.

This is the basic story:
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.


MT said...

Yeah, after reading just the headline I was very glad I caught the story on Democracy Now.

Pedro Morgado said...

Here, the Chavéz TV.

helmut said...

Funny, Pedro. Thanks. But please remember that most of the media is still opposition-run. It's hardly a matter of Chavez "shutting off" the opposition.