Media representation of Hugo Chávez
- 1 In Venezuela
- 2 International media
- 3 See also
- 4 Bibliography
- 5 Notes
- 6 External links
Even before the April 2002 coup, many owners, managers, and commentators working for the five major private mainstream television networks and largest mainstream newspapers had stated their opposition to Chávez's policies. These media outlets have accused the Chávez administration of intimidating their journalists using specially dispatched gangs. Chávez in turn alleges that the owners of these networks have primary allegiance not to Venezuela but to the United States, and that they seek the advancement of neoliberalism via corporate propaganda. Private media's most prominent political commentators have reported that, among other things, Chávez is mentally ill and that he harbors a "sexual obsession with Castro".
According to Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University, "[The Venezuelan] media is chronically obsessed with Chávez, and critical in a way that would be completely alien for most US observers." One late Venezuelan journalist, Alberto Garrido, was often quoted in North American press and was considered an expert on the revolutionary theory of Chávez. After the media-backed 2002 coup attempt, Venezuela passed 'social responsibility' legislation regulating the media but has largely declined to enforce it.
Coverage of the 2002 coup
Private media coverage of the 11–14 April coup only exacerbated these tensions. On 11 April, the anti-government march, the message "remove Chávez", and the call to redirect the march to the presidential palace in Milaflores, were "widely announced, promoted, and covered by private television channels, whose explicit support for the opposition became evident." A steady stream of unpaid ads asked Venezuelans to participate in the insurrection.
In an attempt to keep order, the government invoked Article 192 of the telecommunications law more than thirty times during the days preceding and on the day of the coup. The Article enables the government to coopt regular programming for 15 to 20 minutes to broadcast its own views and position.
The private TV stations circumvented the rule by showing Chávez's addresses and the protest simultaneously, via a split-screen presentation. Chávez then ordered them to be taken off the air in a forced blackout which lasted until several stations started rerouting cable TV signals in order to continue covering the protest. On the first morning after the 2002 coup, many of the new Carmona government's highest-ranking members appeared on-air to offer their appreciation to the private media for their support. Once the counter-coup was launched by Chavistas and loyalist elements of the Palace Guard, these five stations censored any reporting on the events. Private media owners and managers instead chose to broadcast classic films and sitcom reruns.
After RCTV lost its terrestrial broadcast licence in 2007, private television media remained opposed to the Chavez government, but in most cases moderated that opposition by presenting more government spokesmen; Globovision is now perhaps the most vocally and stridently anti-Chavez television station. Globovision was among several private television stations that promoted the two-day coup d'état and management-led oil industry shutdown aimed at ousting President Chávez in 2002 and 2003. Since then Globovision has been investigated over possibilities that it hinted about the assassination of Chavez, and on 29 May 2007, President Chávez claimed during a speech that Globovision had been actively encouraging civil unrest in Venezuela, as well as his assassination. His claim on the latter was based on broadcast footage of the attempted murder of Pope John Paul II in combination with a song titled "Esto no termina aquí" ("This does not end here"). The Venezuelan Government proceeded to file a complaint against Globovision with the Attorney General Office on this matter. CNN was also criticised by the government for showing pictures of an assassinated Al Qaeda leader alongside images of Chavez.
In 2009, Venezuela's telecommunications regulator launched an investigation into the Globovisión network, after it used an earthquake as an opportunity to attack the government. The government said Globovision was illegally inciting fear and violated the public's right to access critical information in a time of crisis, in particular by claiming that Venezuelan institutions were unaware of the quake and that the only information was available from the US (although in fact the US data had come from Venezuela’s National Seismological Institute). The Director of Globovision, who intervened personally on air, also falsely claimed to have been unable to reach Venezuelan authorities. Chávez demanded sanctions against Globovisión, calling station director Alberto Federico Ravell "a crazy man with a cannon". This action was criticized by two officials who monitor freedom of speech, Frank La Rue of the United Nations and Catalina Botero of the OAS. Globovision was fined $4.1m in 2009, for illegal broadcasting on unauthorized microwaves and unpaid taxes from the years 2002-2003 on political advertising airtime donated by Globovision.  Venezuela still has a wide variety of newspapers and radio stations that are critical of Chavez.
Chávez hosted the live talk show Aló Presidente. Of variable format, the show broadcast each Sunday on state-owned media. The show has been considered the principal link between the Venezuelan government and its citizens, and is a source of information for both official and opposition media and at international level. The show featured Chávez addressing topics of the day, taking phone calls from the audience, and touring locations where government social welfare programs were active.
On 11 June 2009 President Chavez inaugurated a "theoretical" edition of his show, in which he wanted to promote "the study, reading and deepening of the revolutionary ideals" in order to strengthen socialism. This program airs on Thursday afternoon.
National System of Public Media
The Venezuelan government has been, since after the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt grown and diversified its media, in order to try to combat the "media terrorism that's committed by the private media". This has been considered by the opposition to Chavez as an attempt to achieve hegemony in the communication in the country.
In 2005, the Venezuelan government announced the joint creation of teleSUR with several other countries. teleSUR is a proposed pan-Latin American news network that seeks to challenge the present "domination" of Latin American television news by U.S.-based CNN en Español and Univisión.
Many[who?] have made the accusation that international media coverage of Hugo Chávez, and the Bolivarian Revolution, has severely distorted the reality in Venezuela.
Media outlets in the United States, and in other parts of the world, have consistently suggested that Hugo Chávez is a "dictator" or is "headed in that direction in spite of the fact that he and his party have won numerous national elections certified by international observers, and confirmed by independent international polling companies.
The left-wing media watchdog FAIR has criticized the New York Times' coverage of Chavez' administration, for instance for its 25 February 2007 article titled "Venezuela Spending on Arms Soars to World’s Top Ranks" . FAIR media watchdog reported that the article did not indicate that the source of this claim came from the USAID governmental organization (which has been accused of being involved in the 2002 failed coup against Chavez ). Furthermore, it stated that
"The article also used a confusing and highly misleading measure of arms expenditures. When it uses the phrase "Venezuela's arms spending," it does not mean the amount Venezuela spends on arms, but the amount that it spends buying arms from other countries. If one is interested in the military threat posed by a particular country, its total spending on its military is a more relevant statistic... In Latin America, according to figures compiled by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Argentina spends almost twice as much on its military as Venezuela, Colombia spends more than three times as much, and Brazil spends about 12 times as much... The United States, as the world's biggest military power, has a military budget roughly 500 times the size of Venezuela. None of this crucial context made it into Romero's piece, though the article does note, in the 19th of 26 paragraphs, that Brazil's army is far larger than Venezuela's... But the article may be inaccurate as well as misleading... The Times' numbers on Venezuelan military spending don't seem to add up... " 
On 13 March 2007 the Ontario Press Council upheld a complaint that a series of articles published in the Toronto Star in May 2006 lacked balance due to the absence of comment from Venezuelan government representatives and did not attribute figures about murder rate, poverty and unemployment to opposition sources.
In 2006, President Chávez announced that the terrestrial broadcast license for RCTV—Venezuela's second largest TV channel—would not be renewed. The channel's terrestrial broadcasts ended on 28 May 2007 and were replaced with a state network. RCTV is accused of supporting the coup against Chávez in April 2002, and the oil strike in 2002-2003. Also, it has been accused by the government of violating the Law on the Social Responsibility of Radio and Television. The director of the station, Marcel Granier, denies taking part in the coup. RCTV is still broadcasting via cable and satellite and is widely viewable in Venezuela. This action has been condemned by a multitude of international organizations. However, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) questioned whether, in the event a television station openly supported and collaborated with coup leaders, the station in question would not be subject to even more serious consequences in the United States or any other Western nation. In a poll conducted by Datanalisis, almost 70 percent of Venezuelans polled opposed the shut-down, but most cited the loss of their favorite soap operas rather than concerns about limits on freedom of expression.
In May 2007, international media coverage of the events surrounding the RCTV's licence revocation almost universally reported it as a "shut down" or "closure" of an "independent" voice, when, in fact, RCTV was only revoked of its licence and equipment to broadcast on national airwaves but continues to broadcast by cable and satellite. The events were given wide coverage in the international media, arguably creating the image that there was widespread chaos and unrest in the country, when most of the protests only took place in the major cities. Many media outlets in the United States portrayed the government decision to not renew the broadcast license as a "dictatorial" act that was "muzzling opposition voices" and "attacking the media." Fox News in the United States gave especially distorted coverage of the events, claiming that Hugo Chávez had "shut down the media all across the country" when in reality RCTV was the only channel to lose its broadcast license. Many other opposition media outlets continue to operate in Venezuela, including the major newspapers and TV channels, making up the clear majority of the Venezuelan media.
In subsequent international coverage of Venezuelan media, the RCTV licence episode is sometimes presented accurately, at other times mischaracterised as above - for example AFP declared in June 2009 that "The government refused to renew RCTV's license in May 2007 because of its critical news coverage."
In December 2007, Venezuela held a national vote on a proposed constitutional reform that would have made a large number of changes to the Venezuelan political structure. Among the proposed changes was extending the term limits to three. A change that would have allowed Hugo Chávez to run for reelection for the third time in 2012 when his current term ends. While there are many countries in the world that do not have term limits for national leaders including the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Germany, and others (though most of these are parliamentary democracies rather than a presidential democracy, like Venezuela), the constitutional reform in Venezuela was widely reported in international media as a change that would "make Chavez president for life.". Media outlets called the reform a "power grab" on the part of Chávez, and presented the image of a country "heading toward dictatorship".
On 3 December 2007, the reform was voted down, and the proposed changes were not made to the Venezuelan constitution. International media reported that Chávez had accepted the results "grudgingly" and only after pressure from the high military command. Military commanders immediately released statements denying that Chávez had been pressured to accept the results.
- Eva Golinger, esq., "The Media War Against the People: A Case Study of Media Concentration and Power in Venezuela," in Olivia Burlingame Goumbri, The Venezuela Reader, Washington D.C. U.S.A., 2005. A version of this is available online here.
- Gill, J. et al. (2006), "Covering Chavez in US media: how elite newspaper reports a controversial international figure", Investigación y Desarrollo 14(2)
- Dinges, John. Columbia Journalism Review (July 2005). "Soul Search", Vol. 44 Issue 2, July–August 2005, pp52-8
- Bartley, Kim and O'Briain, Donnacha. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Bórd Scannán na hÉireann, 2003.
- Gould, Jens Erik. On Scene: Venezuela's War Games, Time. 19 June 2006
- Muere Alberto Garrido, el mayor experto de la Revolución Bolivariana. http://www.noticias24.com/actualidad/noticia/10226/alberto-garrido-ha-fallecido-esta-noche-en-caracas/
- Democracy Now! Thursday, 21 September 2006.  Retrieved 4 October 2006.
- The quote and the information on the unpaid (donated airtime) ads are from Margarita López Maya, "Venezuela 2002-2003: Polarization, Confrontation, and Violence," in Olivia Burlingame Goumbri, The Venezuela Reader, Washington D.C., U.S.A., 2005, pages 15, 16. The value of the donated time has been placed at Bs. 1.6 millardos -- close to $US 3 million.
- Golinger, p 94, on the Article and the 30 instances.
- CounterPunch, 21 June 2007, An Analysis of How the Network Has Deliberately Misinformed Its Viewers: Fox News and Venezuela
- Venezuelanalysis, 22 May 2009, Globovision: The Loose Cannon of Venezuelan Media
- Venezuelanalysis, 17 June 2009, Venezuela Investigates Private TV Station Globovision for Inciting Assassination, Other Crimes
- Venezuelanalysis, 29 May 2007, Venezuelan Government Accuses CNN and Globovisión of Inciting Violence
- El Universal
- Axis of Logic, 27 June 2009, Reporters Without Borders’ Lies about Venezuela
- Venezuelanalysis, 11 June 2009, Venezuela's Media Quake
- Arthur Brice (5 June 2009). "Venezuela takes actions against critical TV station". CNN.
- Juan Forero (11 June 2009). "Chávez Raising Pressure On Defiant TV Network". The Washington Post.
- Tyler Bridges (12 May 2009). "Venezuela's Chávez threatens to shut down TV station". The Christian Science Monitor.
- "Venezuelan diplomat defends probe of anti-government TV station". CBC and The Associated Press. 23 May 2009.
- Venezuelanalysis, 6 June 2009, Venezuelan Government Fines Opposition TV Globovision
- "Aló, Presidente Teórico es un espacio para afianzar el socialismo" Bolivarian News Agency, 11 June 2009 (Spanish) (Retrieved on 15 July 2009)
- Independent International Polls Validate Official Results
- Venezuela Spending on Arms Soars to World’s Top Ranks, NYT, 25 February 2007
- THE PROOF IS IN THE DOCUMENTS: THE CIA WAS INVOLVED IN THE COUP AGAINST VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT CHAVEZ, Eva Golinger, Venezuelafoia.info
- NYT Hypes Venezuelan Threat - Comparison of 'arms spending' doesn't include all arms spending, FAIR, 3 February 2007
- "Star stories on Venezuela lacked balance, panel rules". Toronto Star. 13 March 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2007.
- "News Stories". Ontario Press Council. Retrieved 9 July 2007.
- BBC NEWS. Chavez to shut down opposition TV. (29 December 2006).
- "Venezuela replaces opposition TV with state network". Reuters. 28 May 2007.
- Declaraciones del Ministerio de Comunicación e Información
- Forero, Juan. (The Washington Post, 18 January 2007). "Pulling the Plug on Anti-Chavez TV". Retrieved 18 January 2007.
- Station was never closed as claimed Venezuela's RCTV Reappears on Cable and Satellite Venezuelanalysis.com Accessed 12 August 2007.
- Joel Simon, Executive Director CPJ urges Chávez to allow RCTV to stay on the air Committee to Protect Journalists Accessed 29 May 2007.
- Venezuela (2006). Freedom House. Accessed 29 May 2007.
- IPI condemns shutdown of RCTV television station in Venezuela International Press Institute Accessed 29 May 2007.
- "Coup Co-Conspirators as Free-Speech Martyrs".
- Charles Barron Disputes FOX News' Venezuela Coverage
- Censorship or Democratization? RCTV and Freedom of Speech in Venezuela, Gregory Wilpert, Counterpunch.org
- AFP, 10 June 2009, Venezuela court rejects TV network legal case