Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

The Upside Down World

Posted by Charles II on July 21, 2013

An open letter by a number of LatAm experts:

The supposed “irony” of whistle-blower Edward Snowden seeking asylum in countries such as Ecuador and Venezuela has become a media meme.

The media has never noted the “irony” of the many thousands of people who have taken refuge in the United States, which is currently torturing people in a secret prison at Guantanamo, and regularly kills civilians in drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries. Nor has the press noted the “irony” of refugees who have fled here from terror that was actively funded and sponsored by the U.S. government, e.g. from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, and other countries.

But in fact the “irony” that U.S. journalists mention is fantastically exaggerated.  It is based on the notion that the governments of Venezuela under Chávez (and now Maduro) and Ecuador under Correa have clamped down on freedom of the press. Most consumers of the U.S. media unfortunately don’t know better, since they have not been to these countries and have not been able to see that the majority of media are overwhelmingly anti-government…

Yes, the Venezuelan government’s communications authorities let the RCTV channel’s broadcast license expire in 2007. This was not a “shut down”… Even José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch – a fierce critic of Venezuela – has said that “lack of renewal of the contract [broadcast license], per se, is not a free speech issue.”…

A July 10th piece from the Washington Post’s editorial board – which has never hid its deep hatred of Venezuela, Ecuador and other left governments in Latin America – describes another supposed grave instance of the Venezuelan government clamping down on press freedoms. The editorial, which was given greater publicity through Boing Boing and others, describes the case of journalist Nelson Bocaranda, who is credited with breaking the news of Chávez’s cancer in June 2011. The Post champions Bocaranda as a “courage[ous]” “teller of truth” and dismisses the Venezuelan government’s “charges” against him as “patently absurd.” In fact, Bocaranda has not been charged with anything; the Venezuelan government wants to know whether Bocaranda helped incite violence following the April 14 presidential elections, after which extreme sectors of the opposition attacked Cuban-run health clinics and homes and residences of governing party leaders, and in which some nine people were killed – mostly chavistas.

In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa has been widely condemned in the U.S. media – in much reporting as well as commentary – for suing a prominent journalist, Emilio Palacio, for defamation. The defamatory content was, in fact, serious. It relates to a 2010 incident in which Correa was first assaulted and then later held captive by rebelling police in what many observers deemed an attempt at a coup d’etat. Military forces ultimately rescued Correa. But in a February 2011 column referring to the episode, Palacio alleged that Correa had committed “crimes against humanity,” and that he had ordered the military forces to fire on the hospital where he was being held at the time. So Correa sued Palacio for defamation and won.

Many commentators have cited Reporters Without Borders and other media watchdog groups’ criticisms of Ecuador’s proposed new “Organic Law of Communication.”

Organizations such as RSF [Reporters Without Borders] and Freedom House are supposed to be impartial arbiters of press freedom around the world and are rarely subject to scrutiny. Yet both have taken funding from the U.S. government and/or U.S.-government supported organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (which was set up to conduct activities “much of [which]” the “CIA used to fund covertly,” as the Washington Post reported at the time, and which also provided funding and training to organizations involved in the afore-mentioned 2002 Venezuelan coup) and other “democracy promotion” groups. The NED has spent millions of dollars in Venezuela and Ecuador in recent years to support groups opposed to the governments there…

What an upside down world, when poor countries like Ecuador and Venezuela actually have more real press freedom than a rich country like the US. In Venezuela, the press may be afraid of the government, a little bit, at least. In the US, the press delivers the government’s point of view, or at least the viewpoint of cranky billionaires who are trying to take charge of the government.

And we call ourselves free.

By the way, the latest rankings by Reporters Without Borders have us at #32. That’s the Reporters Sans Frontiers that accepts payments from the US government.

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2 Responses to “The Upside Down World”

  1. Isn’t it interesting that the people who habitually bash Ecuador and Venezuela are silent as the tomb on post-coup Honduras and Colombia?

    • Charles II said

      After decades of rule by paramilitaries, Colombia is actually starting to see a restoration of something vaguely resembling democracy. But Paraguay? And, as you say, Honduras.

      This kind of hypocrisy is just horrible for our image. And, beyond our image, our influence. It’s not new–after all, we sanctioned and facilitated the murder of perhaps a million Indonesians even as we thundered against the Soviet gulags which, at that time, weren’t anywhere near as lethal. And, to top it off, we cozied up to Mao at just the time he was engaged in one of the worst of repressions, the Cultural Revolution.

      But people have started to catch on. Without the veneer of the Cold War, the hypocrisy is plain to see.

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