Hugo Chavez and the private media
by Salim Lamrani
Originally published in Spanish
on 8/10/2009 at http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=89851
(Translated from Spanish to English
by David Brookbank)
On August 2, 2009, Reporters Without Borders
(RWB) issued a statement denouncing the closure of "thirty
four broadcast media at the government's behest" in Venezuela.
The Paris-based organization "vigorously condemns the massive
closure of broadcast media" and asks: "Is it still possible
to publicly express any criticism at all of President Hugo Chavez's
'Bolivarian' government? This massive closure of mainly opposition
media is dangerous for the future of democratic debate in Venezuela
and is motivated by the government's desire to silence dissent.
It will only exacerbate social divisions." (1)
RWB makes reference to the decision taken by the Venezuelan National
Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) on August 1, 2009 to withdraw
the broadcast licenses of thirty-four radio and television stations.
According to RWB, this decision is motivated only by the fact
that these media outlets criticized the government of Hugo Chavez.
In short, it was a political act intended to silence the opposition
press. The vast majority of the Western media has repeated this
However this is not the situation and RWB and the media multinationals
have carefully concealed the truth in order to mislead public
opinion and present the most democratic government in Latin America
(Hugo Chavez has faced 15 electoral processes since coming to
power in 1998 and has emerged victorious in fourteen of these
elections, all praised by the international community for their
transparency) as a regime which seriously violates freedom of
Indeed, in similar circumstances any country in the world would
have made the same decision Conatel did. Several stations deliberately
ignored a summons from the Commission designed to determine the
status of their licenses and bring them up to date. After an
investigation, Conatel discovered numerous irregularities, such
as deceased licensees whose licenses were being used by third
persons, non-renewal of the required administrative procedures,
or simply the lack of authorization to broadcast. Venezuelan
law, like that in the rest of the world, stipulates that a media
outlet that fails to renew its concession within a specified time
period or that broadcasts without authorization will lose its
transmission frequency, which will then revert back to the public
domain. Thus, thirty-four stations that were broadcasting illegally
lost their licenses. (3)
In fact, the decision by Conatel, far from restricting freedom
of expression, has put an end to an illegal situation and has
initiated a policy of democratization of the Venezuelan radio
spectrum with the goal of putting it at the disposition of the
community. In reality, 80% of radio and television stations in
Venezuela are privately owned, while only 9% of them are public
and the rest belonging to associations or communities. Moreover,
the majority of Venezuelan private media is concentrated in the
hands of 32 families. (4)
Thus, RWB and the western media have totally distorted a routine
measure taken by Conatel to put an end to an illegal situation.
RWB has chosen as its modus operandi a tooth-and-nail defense
of the Venezuelan opposition, which was responsible for the April
2002 coup against Chavez, a coup that the Parisian organization
endorsed immediately. In particular, RWB defends the coup-supporting
channel Globovision, which RWB considers the symbol of freedom
of expression in Venezuela. (5) However, RWB fails to point out
that in addition to its active participation in the 2002 coup,
Globovision supported the sabotage of the Venezuelan oil industry
that same year, launched a call for taxpayers not to pay their
taxes, and called for insurrection and the assassination of President
Recently, Globovision supported the junta behind the coup in Honduras
that overthrew the democratically elected president Jose Manuel
Zelaya, a coup unanimously condemned by the international community.
The owner of Globovision, William Zuloaga Nunez, recognized the
illegal government of Micheletti, launching at the same time a
call for a coup d'état in Venezuela: "The Micheletti
government is following the constitution and we wish, we would
love it if in Venezuela the constitution would be respected as
it is being respected in Honduras." (7)
RWB does not defend freedom of expression in Venezuela. Rather
it prefers to take the side of the enemies of democracy.
(1) Reporters Without Borders, «Trente-quatre médias
audiovisuels sacrifiés par caprice gouvernemental»,
2 de agosto de 2009. http://www.rsf.org/Trente-quatre-medias-audiovisuels.html
(sitio consultado el 3 de agosto de 2009). Reporters Without Borders,
"Thirty four broadcast media shut down at government's behest",
August 2, 2009. http://rsf.org/34-broadcast-media-shut-down-at.html
(site consulted on August 3, 2009).
(2) Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, «Productores independientes
respaldan suspensión de emisoras radiales ilegales»,
4 de agosto de 2009.
(3) Fabiola Sánchez, «Radios desafían a Chávez
operando por Internet», The Associated Press, 3 de agosto
(4) Thierry Deronne, «Au Venezuela, la bataille populaire
pour démocratiser le 'latifundio' des ondes», 2 de
agosto de 2009. En español: La batalla popular para democratizar
el latifundio de las ondas; Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, «Medida
de Conatel no afectará libertad de expresión e información
en Venezuela», 4 de agosto de 2009.
(5) Reporters Without Borders, «Le gouvernement accélère
sa croisade contre les médias privés en voulant
modifier les lois et les règles», 21 de julio de
2009. Reporters Without Borders, "Government steps up hounding
of private media through new laws and regulations", July
(6) Salim Lamrani, «Reporters sans frontières contre
la démocratie vénézuélienne»,
Voltaire, 2 juillet 2009.
(7) Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, «Globovisión
apoya marcha a favor de gobierno golpista en Honduras»,
22 de julio de 2009.
Salim Lamrani is a professor at Paris
Descartes University and Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée University
and French journalist, specialist on relations between Cuba and
the US. He has just published Doble Moral. Cuba, la Unión
Europea y los derechos humanos, [Double Standards. Cuba, the European
Union and Human Rights]; (Hondarribia: Editorial Hiru, 2008).
His new book is entitled, Cuba: Ce que les medias ne vous diront
jamais [Cuba: What the media will never tell you] (Paris: Editorial
Estrella, 2009) with a prologue by Nelson Mandela.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com