VHeadline commentarist Carlos Herrera writes: Since the beginning of 2005 the main US dailies such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post have continued their media onslaught against Venezuela and the government of Hugo Chavez.

The latest offering is an article by Jackson Diehl published in the Washington Post on March 28 … which amounts to an attack on Venezuelan Media Minister, Andres Izarra and contains a skilful cacophony of half truths, outright lies and misleading information consciously designed propagate the view that Venezuela is a ”dictatorship” and that there is wholesale censorship of the media. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Venezuelan Internet opposition is naturally very happy with this.

On one web log, the title of the article is “Izarra gets a spanking” and the bloggers proceed to “celebrate the “fact that yet another mainstream US journalist is on their side of the fence.

However, the following comment posted in by Steven Hunt based in Miami says it all: Jackson Diehl, the WP columnist, is a hack for the US plutocracy. This is well evident, notice the way he casually calls the US a “democracy.”

From the fact that the US government can lie to the public brazenly (weapons of mass destruction, etc.), while opinion-whores like Diehl are paid fat salaries by the likes of the Washington Post (which is no more than a propaganda arm of the US State Department) points up the degree to which this “journalist” can be trusted to render an accurate accounting of events in the defenses of authentic democracy.

Given the Venezuelan oligarch media’s utter contempt for the notion of fairly presenting information, the media laws — however imperfect — reflect the reality on the ground in Venezuela–where for too long the media manipulated information so as to destabilize the constitutional order.

Steven Hunt | 03.28.05 – 8:04 am | #

Diehl does not say anything new and glosses over his accusations with the blanket statement:

“Apparently I drew Izarra’s attention by writing several columns and editorials lamenting President Hugo Chavez’s assault on press freedom and the independent judiciary and his support for anti-democratic movements elsewhere in Latin America”.

Diehl then goes on to say ­ and this is key in his aim of painting Venezuela as a dictatorship:

“Beginning this month journalists or other independent activists accused by the government of the sort of offenses alleged by Izarra can be jailed without due process and sentenced to up to 30 years.”

Without due process?

Where does the 30 years come from?

  • Is this to do with Cuba and Diehl is cross referencing the two countries in this own confused mind?

Or does he mean 30 months?

This notion about “without due process” is frankly hogwash, since only the judiciary can sentence people to prison terms in Venezuela … not the whims of any Minister, or even the President of the Republic.

The US “due process” certainly applies to the political prisoners in Guantanamo.

In addition, the implied reference to print media being controlled by the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio & Television (Ley Resorte) is just a contradiction in terms.

Diehl continues with this pearl: “To be sure, much of the Venezuelan media has aggressively opposed Chavez’s populist “Bolivarian revolution,” though not without reason: The former coup-plotting colonel is well on his way to destroying what was once the most stable and prosperous democracy in Latin America. Some newspapers and television stations openly sided with attempts to oust the president via coup, strike or a national referendum. Having survived all three, a strengthened Chavez is moving to eliminate critical journalists and create in Venezuela the kind of state-controlled media environment in which a minister of information such as Izarra is all-powerful.”

Note that while Diehl continues to spin half truths … he does not condemn the fact that “some newspapers and television stations openly sided with attempts to oust the President via coup, national strike…”

By omission, Diehl is supporting undemocratic actions to further a change of government.

Are you a democrat, Mr. Diehl, or just another hack blindly supporting US interests abroad?

  • Until you publicly condemn the coup and the politically inspired strike, then everyone has to assume that you are undemocratic. That is a neo fascist.

The cold war mentality of Diehl is manifest when he writes that the aim is to make a “minister of information such as Izarra … all-powerful.” There is no evidence of this and is yet another plate of hogwash served up in the pages of the Post. Produce the evidence, Mr. Diehl.

We are waiting.

The Ley Resorte has not forced anyone out of a job, least of all “Two of the most prominent anti-government journalists lost their jobs as anchors on morning television shows, and Venezuelans quickly noticed the appearance of self-censorship among those who remained.”

These two journalists … namely Marta Colomina and Napoleon Bravo … were taken off the air since their morning talk shows had hardly any ratings, as viewers tend to recognize constant lying and twisting of facts after three years.

  • Both, however, continue with radio shows in Venezuela.
  • Neither were anchors, both were political commentators whose aim, every day of the week, was to discredit the government and contribute to its downfall.

On the Colomina show, a prominent opposition politician, Felipe Mufica said, and repeated that Chavez was a ”f…ing b……ard” live on the air. This person is not in jail … and to prevent this sort of abuse of the airwaves in Venezuela, the Ley Resorte was necessary.

On April 12, 2002, Napoleon Bravo read out Chavez’ “supposed” resignation letter, but never showed it to the cameras. On the same show, he interviewed key coup plotters who confirmed that their “plan” had been hatched almost a year previous.

Are these the actions of an anchor, Mr. Diehl, or a coup monger?

Let us not forget, that during the “strike” from December 2, 2002 to February 3, 2003, the private TV channels aired 17,500 spots of anti-government publicity/propaganda, suspending all regular programming 24 hours a day, even going to the extent of calling for the armed forces to overthrow the government in the spot “Where are the men of Honor.”

What would happen in the US, the UK, France or Germany is this were the standard of freedom of expression aired by the TV channels or radio stations?

What Diehl is saying is that if this sort of behavior is not permitted by the Ley Resorte, then the Chavez government is limiting the freedom of expression and enforcing “self-censorship.”

One question is, how does one know if there is self censorship or not, if one has not seen the original “censored scripts”?

Sure, you can criticize the government in Venezuela, it happens every day as it does in the US … but you may not broadcast outright lies or threats in order to destabilize the constitutional and democratic order any more … without harsh pecuniary sanctions and the eventual risk of having your broadcasting license suspended or revoked.

Most sane-minded people throughout the world will agree with this, even though Diehl and the shattered remains of the rabid Venezuelan coup-mongering opposition would not.

  • This, and the protection of children’s rights, which are supra constitutional in Venezuela, are the main cornerstones of the Ley Resorte.

The new penal code is very strict. That has to be admitted. It means that journalists have to choose their words carefully when criticizing the President or ministers. On April 11, 2002, radio & television journalist, Miguel Cesar Rondon said on a radio program — as the coup was in progress — “Let’s go and get the cretin out of Miraflores.”

This is no longer permitted … the airing programs or writing articles saying that Chavez beats his wife and is some sort of Freudian pervert, or that he is mentally incapable, or any unfounded speculation to denigrate him is banned.

The new code also covers reporting designed to cause panic and anxiety in the population, which was a favorite tactic of the opposition.

A good example of this was during the strike in 2002, when opposition spokesmen kept on repeating that there would be a famine in Venezuela, and that there was no more gasoline even before the strike got off the ground, using the print and broadcast media to spark panic buying, when all these accounts were simply lies. This is now illegal.

The “expose another person to contempt or public hatred” clause was introduced after ministers and deputies were attacked in public, railroaded out of restaurants by unruly mobs, spat upon in airplanes and at funerals and had pots and pans banged right next to their heads. One incident was when the tax authorities (IRS/SENIAT), sent a team of inspectors to a swish restaurant in the east of Caracas. These inspectors were attacked and forced to hide in the bathroom, spat upon and degraded by the rich customers in the restaurant.

Another example was when the President of the Supreme Tribunal (TSJ) attended a funeral … again in the east of Caracas … and was insulted and had hot soup thrown over him and his wife by opposition sympathizers -­ all victims of the public hatred whipped up over more than two years in media.

The penal code is aimed at putting a stop to these anti-democratic and irrational acts, in other words hooliganism which has so far gone unpunished.

The last part of Diehl’s propaganda is incredible in its conclusions: “The new code reserves the toughest sanctions for journalists or others who receive foreign funding, such as the election monitoring group Sumate, which has been funded in part by the National Endowment for Democracy. Venezuelans or foreigners living in the country can be punished with a 10- to 15-year sentence for receiving foreign support that “can prejudice the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela . . . or destabilize the social order,” whatever that means. Persons accused of conspiring against the government with a foreign country can get 20 to 30 years in prison. The new code specifies that anyone charged with these crimes will not be entitled to legal due process. In other words, should Izarra determine that my Caracas-based colleagues continue to collude with the State Department against Venezuela, they could be summarily jailed.”

Izarra’s decision is not the overriding factor, Mr. Diehl.

This, I repeat, is ultimately a question for the courts. Stop misleading the US public. If you were in Venezuela, you could be brought to book for this sort of journalism, since you are writing what could be considered “detrimental to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

Receiving foreign funding, as Sumate has done from the NED is illegal under Venezuelan law. Maria Corina Machado and Alexander Plaz of Sumate will go to trial for this and other crimes such as electoral fraud and trafficking US$ on the black market.

Receiving foreign funding also applies to journalists in the country whose articles illustrate the fact that they want to destabilize the democratic and social order.

It also applies to Venezuelan nationals working outside the country to contribute to the overthrow of the government.

The interpretation is left to the judges … as happens in every democratic country in the world. Once again Diehl repeats the lie “without due process” and sets up Izarra as judge and jury. The most Minister Izarra can do is to approach the Attorney General to take action within the framework of the law. This is standard practice everywhere. Jailing people “summarily” does not come into the question.

  • Conspiring against the government with a foreign power deserves a lengthy prison sentence -­ this is high treason however you define it.

I am sure that in the US, that US citizen caught conspiring with North Korea, to overthrow the Bush administration would be locked up and the key thrown away!

In the UK, High Treason is till the only crime where someone can be hanged, even though the death penalty was abolished for first degree murder in 1956.

In the final part of his article, Diehl continues to mislead the US public: “His (Chavez’) government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund Americans in the United States who write articles and letters glorifying Chavez and attacking the Bush administration”.

Documentary evidence Mr. Diehl, where is it?

Just press speculation and half truths … however, there is concrete evidence uncovered under the FOIA by Eva Golinger, that opposition groups in Venezuela have received funding from the NED and USAID … including mainstream anti-Chavez newspapers.

The Venezuelan government has paid Patton Boggs to lobby in Washington. That is legal and standard practice in the US. It is the Bush administration that pays journalists to write articles supporting the reform of social security, for example. If the assertion that US journalists were receiving funds from Venezuela to support the revolution were correct, this would not be illegal in the US.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in Venezuela.

We are all waiting with baited breath for “slandered and libeled” US journalists to take Minister Izarra to court. I will not name them here, as they have already been named in the past. However, they have the constitutional right to sue Minister Izarra.

Why have they not done this?

Because there is evidence of their paid muck-raking and this would be uncovered illustrating what paid and prostituted hacks they really are.

  • As for you, Mr. Diehl, perhaps you should examine your professional ethics and reflect upon what is the meaning of truth.

You abuse your position as a columnist on the Washington Post using the well worn tactics of blanket statements and bare faced lies, playing upon the general ignorance of the US readers regarding Venezuela in your newspaper.

Carlos Herrera