By Éric Toussaint
The Right of Access to Information is a fundamental Human Right. Here we see, taking some examples from Venezuela, Honduras, Peru and Ecuador how monopolies or oligopolies in the ownership and control of the media conspire against democracy by restricting the plurality and diversity that ensures the full exercise of the right to information of the citizens.
It is important to bear in mind the danger posed by the systematically hostile attitude adopted by the vast majority of the major European and North American journalistic media (as well as the Reporters without Borders organization) with regard to the ongoing experiences in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. This hostility is only equal to the embarrassing and complicit silence regarding the Honduran coup plotters or the repression exercised by the Peruvian army against the Indians of the Amazon.
To illustrate this claim, here are some recent facts:
1.- On June 5, 2009, the Peruvian army assassinated more than 50 Amazonian Indians in Bagua who were protesting against the land concessions granted by the Alan García government to foreign, mainly European, transnational companies. And this did not provoke the disapproval of the great world press groups. | 1 | At that time they gave almost exclusive priority to protests in Iran. Not only did the press not condemn the repression in Peru, but these events barely had an echo.
However, the discontent in Peru was such that the government had to announce the repeal of the presidential decree against which the Amazon Indians were fighting. And once again, the media coverage of that defeat of the Peruvian government was almost nil. Let us pose the following question: If an intervention by the Venezuelan or Ecuadorian army had caused the deaths of dozens of Amazon Indians, what would have been the media coverage?
2.- When the constitutional president Manuel Zelaya was dismissed by the military on June 28, the vast majority of the media declared, totally distorting the truth, that the military had reacted to the will of the president to modify the Constitution in order to stay in power. Many media added that this was following the example of Hugo Chávez, presented as an authoritarian populist leader.
In reality, Manuel Zelaya only proposed to his fellow citizens to pronounce in favor of the organization of general elections to a Constituent Assembly, which would have represented a true democratic advance in that country. What is explained very well by Cécile Lamarque and Jérôme Duval, back from a CADTM mission to Honduras: «The coup d'état took place on the same day that Manuel Zelaya organized the 'consultation', of a non-binding nature, in Hondurans were asked if they wanted, or not, the convening of a National Constituent Assembly, after the elections scheduled for November 29, 2009. The question was the following: Do you agree that in the general elections November 2009 a fourth ballot box is installed to decide on the convocation of a national constituent assembly to approve a new political Constitution? | 2 | If this consultation had gathered a majority of "yes", the president would have submitted a decree for approval by Congress so that, on November 29, Hondurans would formally pronounce on the convocation of a constituent, in a "fourth ballot box" (the The first three were reserved for the election of president, deputies and mayors, respectively). To give the coup a touch of legality, Congress and the Supreme Court, allied with the coup, decided that the consultation was illegal and ruled that President Zelaya had "violated the Constitution" by trying to modify it "in order to claim a new mandate ", as a" Chavista dictator apprentice. " However, Manuel Zelaya did not seek, through this consultation, to renew his presidential mandate in the next legislative elections, since these would be held within the framework of the current Constitution, which provides for non-renewable four-year presidential terms. Therefore, Zelaya could not be a candidate for his own succession. " | 3 |
While the popular movements in opposition to the coup d'état multiplied strikes and demonstrations in July, August and September, the mainstream media devoted just a few lines to them. The few times that the big newspapers dedicate a feature article to the situation in Honduras, they practice a denigrating policy with respect to the constitutional president, in the event that they do not directly present the action of the military as a democratic military coup. For example, The Wall Street Journal said in its editorial on July 1, 2009: "The military coup that occurred in Honduras on June 28, which led to exile of the president of that Central American country, Manuel Zelaya, is strangely democratic." The editorial added that "the legislative and judicial authorities remained intact" | 4 | after military action. On the other hand, and in a more nuanced way, the well-known French newspaper Le Monde also participated in this campaign. Here is an example: On September 12, 2009, Jean-Michel Caroit, his special envoy in Honduras, quoted the words of a French expatriate in that country and then added the systematically repeated lie about the malicious intentions attributed to Manuel Zelaya. "For Hondurans, the return of Zelaya is unacceptable since it would mean 20 years of dictatorship to [Hugo] Chávez," exclaimed Marianne Cadario, referring to the president of Venezuela, who - like his ally Manuel Zelaya intended to do so - modified the Constitution to be able to be re-elected. Madame Cadario, a French woman living in Honduras for 30 years, says she is "very astonished by the reaction of the international community," which has condemned the coup "| 5 |. The tone of newspapers such as Le Monde and Libération began to change at the end of September, after the coup plotters rose a few degrees in repression. That said, Libération deserves an award for its use of euphemisms. Indeed, on September 28, 2009 (precisely three months after the coup), the paragraph in which it was explained that the coup government had decreed “the prohibition of“ all unauthorized public meetings ”was subtitled with“ Perfume of dictatorship ”. , arrest of "any person who endangers his life or that of others", "evacuation" of premises occupied by protesters and interference with "the broadcast by any means of programs that try to disturb the peace". | 6 |
3.- At the beginning of August 2009, the intention of the Venezuelan authorities to question the broadcasting rights of 34 radio and television stations found an important echo in the international press on the slogan: «It is one more proof of the almost disappearance of the right of expression and criticism in that authoritarian country. " The way the mainstream press treats the situation of the Venezuelan media is unilaterally hostile to the country's authorities, while 90% of these media are private and the vast majority actively support disinformation campaigns. Globovisión, one of the main private channels, actively participated in the military coup against Chávez on April 11, 2002. A report by Globovisión went around the world on April 11, 2002 and the days following the military coup. It was a montage that falsified reality. Civilians presented as Chavistas were seen firing their pistols from a bridge in an unidentifiable direction.
The Globovisión journalist's voiceover claimed that the Chavistas were about to kill opposition protesters who were peacefully marching in the street that runs under the bridge. The Venezuelan police were able to reconstruct the exact development of the events from the analysis of the reports and the different photos taken by individuals on April 11, 2009. In reality, the Chavista militants who, according to Globovisión, were shooting the protesters, responded to a shooting that came from an armored vehicle belonging to the metropolitan police, allied to the coup plotters. The opposition protesters were no longer on the street the Chavistas were shooting at at the time of the events. Various sources were able to unequivocally demonstrate that the coup plotters had planned the assassination of anti-Chavez protesters, to attribute these crimes to Chávez and justify the coup. On April 11, 2008, Venezuelan viewers were able to review the images of the press conference given by the coup military at a time when no protester had yet been killed. However, these soldiers claimed that they took power in response to the murders carried out by the Chavistas, which clearly corroborates the thesis that these murders had been deliberately planned to justify their seditious action.
During the following two days, April 12 and 13, 2002, when hundreds of thousands of unarmed people surrounded the coup barracks to demand the return of Hugo Chávez, who was a prisoner, Globovisión did not broadcast any image of these protests, and explained that calm had returned to the country and that Hugo Chávez had resigned and was on his way to Cuba. During the last hours of the coup, this chain was content to broadcast cartoons and variety broadcasts | 7 | Globovisión was therefore an accomplice of the coup plotters at several key moments, which led associations of parents of victims and injured survivors to demand a sentence for the network. And so far the Chavista government has refused to do so to prevent the international campaign deployed against it from intensifying. On the other hand, several associations for the defense of human rights are dissatisfied with this passive attitude of the Venezuelan authorities.
More recently, Globovisión expressed its sympathy for the June 28 coup in Honduras. From the moment of the coup, the hosts of the various Globovisión programs supported him and in turn accused the Chávez government of interference for having condemned the coup. In this sense, Guillermo Zuloaga, president of Globovisión, affirmed on July 17 that: "Micheletti's government is in accordance with the Constitution, and we would like, we would love, for the Constitution to be respected here in Venezuela as it is being respected in Honduras." , indicating with these words a clear support for the coup government.
Globovisión was never subject to any broadcast ban. What is the great North American or European medium that mentions this fact? What great European or North American media informs the public that the vast majority of media are controlled by the private sector? And they represent 90% of the audience at the television level. That they attack with extreme violence the government presented as a dictatorship and that some of them, despite having actively participated in the coup against a constitutional president, have continued to broadcast freely for seven years. Could we imagine that General de Gaulle would not have taken repressive measures against a newspaper, a radio, or a television that had actively supported the OAS coup at the time of the Algerian war? Would we find it normal for the Spanish government not to take action against the media that had actively supported, in real time, Colonel Tejero when, at the head of a group of military coup leaders, he threatened the deputies present in the Cortes with his weapon? | 8 | If Manuel Zelaya were reinstated as constitutional president, wouldn't he himself and his government have all the right to hold accountable and take action against the Honduran media owners who systematically supported the coup plotters, distorting reality and covering up the multiple violations of human rights committed by the forces of repression?
4.- Arms expenditures: If we read the European or North American press, one has the impression that Venezuela is about to make significant expenditures on weapons (especially with Russia), which constitutes a threat to peace in the region. But if we believe the CIA, | 9 | the situation is totally different: the Venezuelan military budget is the 6th in the region in order of importance, and comes after those of Brazil, Argentina, Chile (much less populated than Venezuela and considered a model), Colombia and Mexico. In relative terms, considering the gross domestic product of each country, the Venezuelan budget would be the ninth in Latin America.
Have we been able to read this information in the big press? On the contrary, we will have read in August 2009 that Sweden was holding Venezuela to account because the Colombian government had denounced its neighbor, once again, as a supplier of arms to the FARC guerrillas. Sweden had stated in Colombia that the SAAB missiles found in a FARC field had been supplied to Venezuela. Who could read the detailed answer given by Hugo Chávez? The missiles in question had been stolen in a Venezuelan port in 1995, four years before Chávez acceded to the presidency of the Republic ...
Conclusion: It is necessary to be aware of this asymmetry with which the media treat events and maintain a very critical spirit. The discrediting of Hugo Chávez, Rafael Correa and Evo Morales is of such magnitude that it prepares international public opinion to passivity in the event that a new coup attempt occurs or the approval of aggressive measures taken by a government like the United States. Among the insidious accusations without any basis, we can read in the Spanish press (including El País) that Rafael Correa's electoral campaign was financed by the FARC. We can also read that the Venezuelan authorities do not fight drug trafficking. The discredit that the press gave President Zelaya tries to prevent a mobilization of international opinion in favor of his reinstatement as head of state.
Eric Toussaint - October 6 - CDTM - Translated by Griselda Pinero and Raul Quiroz
| 1 | See: http://www.cadtm.org/El-CADTM-se-solidariza-plenamente and http://www.cadtm.org/Perou-le-massacre-de-Bagua
| 2 | http://www.elsoca.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=501:honduras
| 3 | Cécile Lamarque et Jérome Duval, "Honduras: Pourquoi le coup d'État", September 17, 2009, www.cadtm.org/Honduras-Pourquoi-le-coup-d-Etat
| 4 | Quoted by Decio Machado "Who supports the illegitimate government of Roberto Micheletti" http://www.cadtm.org/Quienes-apoyan-al-gobierno
| 5 | Jean-Michel Caroit, "In Honduras, the election campaign in the Haine climate", Le Monde, p. 8, Saturday 12 September 2009
| 6 | http://www.liberation.fr/monde/0101…
| 7 | It is interesting to mention with respect to this issue the initiative taken by the government of Hugo Chávez on April 11, 2008, 6 years after the coup. The government used its broadcasting rights both through private and public antennas to broadcast the full report made by the private anti-Chavista networks (Globovisión, RCTV ...) of the official enthronement session of the president and the coup government in one of the rooms of the presidential palace of Miraflores. The program, which all Venezuelan viewers were able to attend on April 11, 2002, was therefore broadcast again without any cuts and without any critical comment from the Chavista government. He counted on the critical spirit of the Venezuelan society so that she herself could make an opinion on the active complicity of the private media with those responsible for the coup, among whom could be recognized the main authorities of the Catholic Church, the factional military leaders , the leaders of the yellow union CTV (Central de Trabajadores de Venezuela), the leaders of private companies and the president of the Venezuelan Employers' Federation (Fedecámaras), Pedro Carmona. We must point out that this president, who held power for only about 36 hours, is currently nicknamed "Pepe el breve" (alluding to the historic Pepino el breve).
| 8 | On February 23, 1981, an attempted coup d'état organized by Francoist sectors took place in Congress. The colonel, who headed it, threatened the deputies with his weapon and took them hostage at the time of the inauguration of a new prime minister.
| 9 | See http://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the world-factbook / index.html, accessed March 2009.