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January 25, 2006
Venezuela: the censorship begins
Apologists for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez have always claimed to win their argument about his regime by insisting there were no collective farms, no extrajudicial killings, no halts on freedom of expression, no end to freedom of association, no end to a free private sector with property rights.
And no censored press.
They've lost every one of those arguments. In the rawest display of Chavez's growing political power this year, Chavez has ordered all media censored over a key court case. A photo of the newspapers' reaction is "here":http://blogs.salon.com/0001330/2006/01/24.html#a2708
What's happening is a case of the press just trying to do its job. And the government trying to stop them.
About a year ago, a national prosecutor was killed in a car bombing. The government hauled out an unbelievably tainted witness, a Colombian with a history of identity fraud whose last claim, proven fake by the press, was that he was a psychiatrist. In reality, he was more like a target for a psychiatrist. He had a long history of relations with the Colombian Marxist narcoterrorist group known as the FARC, and on the day the government claimed he was busy with "plotters" in Panama, he was sitting in a Colombian jail. All of these facts about this most uncredible of witnesses pointed to a government setup to pin the crime on someone who did not do it.
That someone just happens to be the media. Reporter Patricia Poleo, someone they've hated for a long time, was accused of the actual murder of the prosecutor, something utterly unlikely, and has fled to Peru. Another of the accused was an owner of the television station Globovision. He's sitting in jail. And now his own television station has been told that if he airs anything about this case, including the dodgy, gamy, utterly false witness the government has hauled out to accuse him of the crime, he will be guilty of yet another crime!
In a stunning development, Globovision has said it has no intention of obeying this government "censorship.":http://www.publiuspundit.com/?p=2175 I spent time at this station when I was in Caracas, talking to the reporters, and know how professional they are. But to take a risk like this is significant in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.
Meanwhile, other papers vow to defy this brash act of censorship as well, as Daniel's post shows "here.":http://daniel—venezuela.blogspot.com/2006/01/censorship—in—venezuela—it—is—official.html Francisco Toro, meanwhile, a former ??New York Times?? reporter who quit his job on principle over its Chavista slant, and who was asked to leave based on his marching in the streets of Caracas to defend press freedoms, has some particularly good commentary "here":http://caracaschronicles.blogspot.com/2006/01/out—and—out—censorship.html, "here":http://caracaschronicles.blogspot.com/2006/01/censor—without—cause.html, and "here":http://caracaschronicles.blogspot.com/2006/01/somebody—is—paying—attention.html.
Alek Boyd points out that although Reporters without Border has issued a swift condemnation of this censorship (and their short report is very good "here":http://vcrisis.com/index.php?content=letters/200601250642), the mainstream media is "silent":http://www.vcrisis.com/index.php?content=letters/200601250739. It might not be for long, though. A leading ABC News executive was spotted in Caracas about a week ago, "to find out who to really believe" about Venezuela. He met with colleagues at Globovision to find out.
Keep an eye on this case — Hugo Chavez is trying to black out the news from Venezuela. That affects all of us now.
A.M.Mora y Leon 01 25 06