The most unforgivable Western lie about Venezuela: that it has a ‘caged’ media

Image of glasses on top of a newspaper
Joe Emersberger

The idea that Venezuela has a “caged” media has to be one of the most unforgivable pieces of Western propaganda about the country. And a simple analysis shows just how ignorant that allegation is.

‘The vast majority of Venezuelan papers are anti-government’

On 30 January, independent news site venezuelanalysis tweeted that:

Indeed, just a few days ago, one of Venezuela’s most widely read newspapers, El Universal, published an op-ed enthusiastically applauding the efforts of the US-backed opposition to bring about President Nicolás Maduro’s ouster by recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s new president. The op-ed said Guaidó was managing his US-backed strategy “perfectly”. And it joyously stated that the US and its allies had Maduro surrounded, and almost ready to be ousted.

“Caged”: a lie the Western media loves to push

Cries of ‘censorship’ in Venezuela, however, have filled establishment media outlets in the West for almost two decades – basically since the relationship between the Venezuelan government and the US soured to the point where the George W Bush administration welcomed a military coup against then-president Hugo Chávez. The short-lived 2002 coup was applauded by the New York Times editorial board, which hailed the briefly installed dictator Pedro Carmona as a “respected business leader” who had helped to rescue democracy. An IMF official (Thomas Dawson, who is also a former US government official) immediately stepped forward to offer Carmona’s dictatorship loans.

British academic Alan MacLeod reviewed 166 western media articles that assessed the state of press freedom in Venezuela. This was one aspect of the research he carried out for his book Bad news from Venezuela. MacLeod concluded that 100% of the articles depicted Venezuela’s media as “caged”.

In 2014, the New York Times issued a discrete but very damning correction to a news article. The newspaper had to concede that Venezuela’s TV networks “regularly feature government critics”.

Scathing opposition speeches, on state TV

In fact, in February 2018, opposition candidate Henri Falcón initiated his presidential campaign with a 35-minute speech on Venezuelan state TV. He mocked Maduro as the “hunger candidate”, claiming that the president had made the entire country impoverished “slaves”. He also appeared on large private networks, as did his economic advisor Francisco Rodríguez (see some of these appearances here, here and here). In one interview on one of Venezuela’s largest private TV networks, Falcón referred to Maduro’s government as an “unscrupulous monster”; and he advised opposition supporters not to “wait” for a “military invasion to save Venezuela.”

Accuracy: too much to ask?

Some aspects of Venezuela’s political and economic crisis are complex, and require careful research. But surely it isn’t too much to ask that international journalists accurately report the content of Venezuelan TV and newspapers.

Featured image via pixabay

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