[Media Watch] There is no repression of the media in Venezuela

"Press freedom is protected, and it is right for our journalists to back the regime, says Charley Allan" replying to Phil Gunson in the pages of the Guardian Response

There's no repression of the media in Venezuela

Press freedom is protected, and it is right for our journalists to back the regime, says Charley Allan

Friday December 1, 2006
The Guardian

Phil Gunson condemns National Union of Journalists general secretary Jeremy Dear and solidarity campaign Hands Off Venezuela for supporting the peaceful and democratic revolution happening there (Conflict of interest in Caracas, November 27).

Just to be clear, Venezuela today has the most progressive constitution in the world, and democratic rights, including freedom of the press, are better protected than ever before. Thanks to government advertising, hundreds of new community television and radio stations, which offer a radically different perspective from the private mainstream media, are flourishing. New laws have been passed that require private television stations to show a minimum amount of independent and locally produced programmes. People who have long been ignored by the media finally have a voice.

All of this is passed over by Gunson, who instead complains that then- information minister Andres Izarra - now head of Latin American news channel Telesur - once accused him of "leading a media campaign to destabilise the government".

It may surprise Gunson to learn that Izarra is not alone in this opinion. It is difficult to see how any journalist could believe that responsibility for the murders during the failed coup against Hugo Chávez in April 2002 is "still a matter of speculation", as Gunson recently wrote on the Guardian website.

While the coup was still in progress, Gunson reported that government troops had opened fire on protesters, a claim which has since been thoroughly debunked. In fact, CNN video photographer Otto Neustald admitted that, hours before any killings happened, he filmed a rehearsed press statement by the coup plotters that Chávez was "massacring innocent people with snipers". This is well-documented common knowledge, but Gunson won't accept it.

Gunson repeats bogus claims of journalists suffering from "institutionalised repression", whatever that means. There are no journalists in jail in Venezuela. Compare that to Colombia, where just last week Telesur reporter Fredy Muñoz was arrested on trumped-up charges of "rebellion" and "terrorism".

To describe the organisers of Hands Off Venezuela as "Trotskyists from an outfit known as Socialist Appeal" is, again, grossly inaccurate - the campaign, open to all, encompasses liberals, greens, libertarians, pacifists, trade unionists and grass-roots activists.

Gunson challenges Chávez's literacy campaign, specifically denying that Unesco acknowledged its effectiveness. Yet on October 28 last year, Unesco director Koichiro Matsuura announced: "Venezuela has been declared [an] Illiteracy Free Territory."

For this and many other reasons, NUJ delegates have democratically voted - Gunson would say "were persuaded" - to support the gains made by workers in Venezuela. This is in line with the official policy of the TUC, which in 2005 voted to support the Venezuelan government "for its utilisation of the country's wealth and resources for reforms to benefit working people, the poor and the landless". Is the TUC "misguided" as well?

  • Charley Allan is press officer for Hands Off Venezuela and a member of the NUJ.
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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