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Volume 15, Number 10
May 31, 2009

opinion

Also in this section:
Editorials: One last looting binge; and Obama's pro-labor high court nominee
Rudolf, Tourism with a social conscience
Tharin, The US-Panama free trade pact
Stewart & Burton, A counter-intelligence approach to drug cartel corruption
Jackson, Another "War on Drugs" atrocity
Thompson, Socialism comes to Honduras
Cox, The Cuban Five
Reporters Without Borders, Chávez hassles Globovision
Committee to Protect Journalists, Mexican journalist slain
Felson, French Caribbean department of Guadeloupe heats up
Human Rights Watch, China moves to void human rights lawyers' licenses
Avnery, Racists for democracy
Obama, Introducing Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor
Ducreux, Acceptance
Bernal, Political neurosis
Leis, A comarca for the Naso
Sirias, Tales of two inquisitors
Letters to the editor

Open letter to President Hugo Chávez
to protest hounding of Globovision
by Reporters Without Borders

Mr. Hugo Chávez Frías
President of Venezuela
Miraflores Palace, Caracas

Dear Mr. President,

Reporters Without Borders, a worldwide organization that defends press freedom, wonders about the meaning of steps you are taking against Globovision, the privately-owned news channel which broadcasts only to Caracas and its surrounding area. It is currently being hounded by the government and the administration. Why? And why now?

Globovision reported on an earthquake registering 5.4 on the Richter scale that shook the center-north of Venezuela on 4 May 2009, quoting statistics produced by the US Geological Institute. From 7 May onwards it has been targeted by official proceedings that could lead to it being taken off air for 72 hours.

These proceedings, responsibility for which falls to the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel), were opened on the insistence of the National Assembly meeting on the day after the earth tremor.

The television channel is accused of having broken Article 29 of the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television (Resorte Law) which punishes media that “promote, justify or incite war; promote, justify or incite disruption of public order.” In what way does reporting on an earthquake, however poorly, fit within this definition of an offense? We would like to ask you that.

Let us accept that the 21 May search of one of the Caracas properties of Guillermo Zuloaga, chairman of Globovision that was widely covered in the media was connected with his car concession. We are concerned above all by your opening remarks on the tenth anniversary of your program, “Aló Presidente,” broadcast on this occasion for four days. In the 28th May broadcast you urged not only Conatel, but also the ministry that controls it, the Supreme Court of Justice and the republic’s prosecutor’s office to act against Globovision, failing which you would "act yourself against the deficiencies and failings within some state bodies”. What could be the reason for such a far-reaching mobilization of state apparatus when Conatel had already opened proceedings against Globovision three weeks earlier? Do you want an immediate 72-hour suspension of the channel, at the end of which it would anyway have resumed broadcasting? What would you do in practice to make up for the incompetence of the authorities that you complain about?

The media question is a “public health problem,” you also said on 28 May, dubbing as “Globoterror” a channel which you claimed was “plotting to assassinate” you. This allegation, which has become a recurring theme, partly refers to the obvious mistrust of you shown by Globovision during the coup in which you were briefly ousted from 11-13 April 2002. Legal proceedings along with debate about the approach of some privately owned media during these events, was not without cause at the time. But on what content do you base an accusation more than seven years later? If there really was “a call to murder or launch a coup” against you imputed to Globovision --- reprehensible in principle and even more so against a democratically elected head of state --- would you really confine yourself to a 72-hour suspension against the channel?

Since Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) was taken off air on 27 May 2007, Globovision is the sole broadcast media with a voice strongly critical of your government. No government created by a democratic society, recognizing free expression, can avoid opposition and disagreements. Are you not paying excessive attention to a channel that does not share your ideas? Is it because of “lying,” “insulting you” or worse “to want your death” rather than not sharing them? Are you not over-estimating the real power of the media? Do you not under-estimate your government’s own capacities, by concluding that all those who criticize your actions or defend the rights of your detractors to express themselves are declaring war against you? In other Latin American countries, where your counterparts face hostile media or those considered to be so, the state response has not taken such an extreme form. Never has the leader’s lone voice so dominated almost the entire television sector. And dialogue sometimes gets started. It is worrying that this is not the case in Venezuela. I cherish the hope that this dialogue will take place one day.

I trust that you will give this letter your careful consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Jean-François Julliard
Secretary General


Also in this section:
Editorials: One last looting binge; and Obama's pro-labor high court nominee
Rudolf, Tourism with a social conscience
Tharin, The US-Panama free trade pact
Stewart & Burton, A counter-intelligence approach to drug cartel corruption
Jackson, Another "War on Drugs" atrocity
Thompson, Socialism comes to Honduras
Cox, The Cuban Five
Reporters Without Borders, Chávez hassles Globovision
Committee to Protect Journalists, Mexican journalist slain
Felson, French Caribbean department of Guadeloupe heats up
Human Rights Watch, China moves to void human rights lawyers' licenses
Avnery, Racists for democracy
Obama, Introducing Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor
Ducreux, Acceptance
Bernal, Political neurosis
Leis, A comarca for the Naso
Sirias, Tales of two inquisitors
Letters to the editor

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