One of Venezuela’s oldest and most prestigious newspapers has been sold amid increasing government pressure on independent news media.
The editor in chief of Caracas-based El Universal, Elides Rojas, confirmed that a group of Spanish investors had bought the broadsheet from the family that has run the paper since it was founded 104 years ago.
While neutral reporting in Venezuela is hard to come by after 15 years of polarization over socialist rule, El Universal has stuck closer than most to the ideal of fact-based, investigative reporting amid a crackdown on media outlets that, like it, have been fiercely critical of the government.
As you may recall, last year Globovisión was sold to highly-placed chavistas (who own very pricey digs in Miami), after Guillermo Zuloaga, Globovisión’s majority owner, had to flee Venezuela in 2010, following Hugo Chavez’s constant threats against him and the station.
Impunity for attacks on the press can be attributed in large part to a combination of state and local authorities’ ineptitude and their involvement with or fear of organized crime groups. Federal authorities are not fully trusted by journalists either, though federal prosecutors can claim more professionalism and distance from the corruption and threats that impede subnational officials. Statutes that took effect in May implemented a 2012 constitutional reform empowering
the Office of the Federal Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Free Expression. Prior to the implementing regulations, the office had lacked the authority to assert jurisdiction over cases and had achieved just one conviction in six years. Despite the changes, Special Prosecutor Laura Borbolla was initially hesitant to claim jurisdiction without state officials’ approval. By August
her office had taken on only one homicide case, the 2008 murder of El Diario de Juárez police reporter Armando Rodríguez Carreón.
According to Human Rights Watch, another federal program, the Protection Mechanism for Journalists and Human Rights Defenders, was “seriously undermined by a lack of funds and political support at all levels of government.” Journalists and human rights defenders who sought risk assessment and protection measures faced long delays and inadequate safeguards. Some journalists do benefit from the program, such as Emilio Lugo, editor of the Agoraguerrero news website, who was relocated from Guerrero after his investigations and criticisms of state
authorities resulted in threats. Although there is no confirmed count of Mexican journalists in exile, tenuous security conditions have prompted several to leave the country. Verónica Basurto, an investigative television reporter in Mexico City, criticized the federal protection process as inadequate and fled to Europe after receiving multiple threats. Miguel Ángel López, whose
journalist father and brother were murdered in Veracruz in 2011, received asylum in the United States in June.
In our hemisphere, Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador do not have a free press.
For over two weeks, the people have been protesting against the government. What started as a students’ protest has spread throughout the country – even the beauty queens are protesting. Why?
The protests accompany inflation officially at 56% (but likely much, much higher); the third-highest murder rate of any country in the world; and, according to an official index, scarce supplies of one out of four staple items needed in every home, such as cooking oil, corn flour, and toilet paper.
One of the causes for the rampant criminality is due to the multiple times when, urging his “Bolivarian Revolution,” Hugo Chavez encouraged the poor to steal while he created a favored class, instead of directing his regime towards the rule of law. Chavez armed gangs that repressed opposition demonstrations (and, make no mistake, they’re on the attack now). He named to his cabinet men who were designated as “Tier II Kingpins” by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. To worsen things, as part of his “war of all the peoples”, Chavez forged close ties with Iran and Hezbollah.
The protests come from people who realize that their future has been robbed by a narco-kleptocracy. Almost anyone in Venezuela that has aspirations to a better future through education, hard work, you name it, questions more or less actively the regime.
In the opinion of Goodman et al, what we have here is a government supported by brown-skinned, poor, disenfranchised people trying to survive a wave of violence, unleashed by radical, conservative, educated middle classes, bent on wresting control through undemocratic means, to then surrender sovereignty to U.S. interests. Never mind the brutality, torture, and assassinations of innocent, and unarmed, students and civilians. Never mind the excessive use of military force to placate peaceful demonstrations. Never mind the presence of a de facto Cuban occupation army. Never mind the fact that chavismo has never won overall control of student and authorities bodies of Venezuelan universities, where voting is still done manually.
The “moderate” wing, by the way, that some refer to as the “official opposition”.
Boyd’s essay points to the importance of social media when the MSM abdicates its duty to present facts:
However, no amount of manipulated subjectivity passing as objective journalism can win the day against social media. While the reach of BBC and AP is, most certainly, global, it pales next to that of Twitter and Facebook, where the Venezuelan crisis is being reported in real time, unedited, by hundreds of thousands of citizen reporters armed with smartphones.
Go read the whole thing.
And while you’re at it, get rid of those “big shoes” of Chávez “reporters” are trying to throw at you.
The decision caps a four-year battle against Clarín by Mrs. Kirchner, who has made dismantling the media giant a top priority of her administration. Relations between both sides began to fray shortly after she took office in 2007. The newspaper was critical of her handling of a farmers strike in 2008.
The following year, she stripped Clarín of lucrative soccer-broadcasting rights and later seized control of a newsprint maker in which Clarín is a shareholder. Her administration also filed criminal charges against executives from Clarín and competing newspaper La Nación, accusing them of colluding with Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship to obtain control of the newsprint company. Clarín and La Nación denied the allegations and called them an effort to silence critical voices.
In one particularly bitter episode, Mrs. Kirchner’s government and human-rights groups teamed up against Clarín’s owner, Ernestina Herrera de Noble, and accused her of adopting children who may have been stolen during the 1970s dictatorship. DNA tests later confirmed that the children, Marcela and Felipe, couldn’t be tied to a database of people that had been “disappeared” during the dictatorship. The government never apologized.
This year, Mrs. Kirchner compared the media to military coup-mongers, saying journalists fire “ink bullets” in their bid to overthrow governments and pursue their own vested special interests. Some of her government’s top officials stormed Clarín’s annual shareholder meeting in April to heckle company officials. Mrs. Kirchner once acknowledged using the federal tax agency to investigate a critic of hers that had been quoted in Clarín.
“It’s a blood vendetta,” said Riordan Roett, professor of Latin American politics at Johns Hopkins University. “Both Kirchners, dead or alive, were and are very thin-skinned.”
Mrs. Kirchner’s husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner, died in 2010.
The decision could mark a turning point in freedom of expression in Argentina. Clarín has long said that income from cable and Internet businesses allows it to maintain its editorial independence by giving it the financial security to withstand the loss of advertising from hard-hitting articles against business or government leaders.
Aside from the Castro brothers, there’s nobody in the Western Hemisphere who’s trying harder to do away with freedom of the press than Assange’s putative champion, Ecuador’s rambunctiously left-wing president Rafael Correa. In June, Correa pushed through a law establishing the crime of “media lynching,” defined as the “dissemination of information” with “the purpose of discrediting” someone. If Richard Nixon had access to a law like that, maybe Woodward and Bernstein would have won a second Pulitzer for their prison diaries.
You’d think even the most hyperactive despot would rest on his laurels for a while after passing a masterpiece like the media-lynching law, but for all the criticism of Correa, nobody has ever attacked his work ethic. Earlier this month, his chief legal advisor asked the legislature to let the government start jailing people for wisecracks on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
Cristina Fernandez, viuda de Kirchner, is not happy that the country’s journalists are reporting about her smear campaign against Pope Francis, the real inflation figures ( >25%), and international investors’ loss of confidence in the country. Mary O’Grady has the story,
There have been criminal actions against newspaper officials for editorials it didn’t like, attempts to gain control of the country’s domestic newsprint supply, and the passage of a law that politicizes the granting of broadcast licenses and the sale of spectrum. Then there was the September 2009 raid by some 200 tax agents on the daily Clarín, and the deployments of pro-Kirchner mobs to block the distribution of some newspapers that do not toe the Kirchner line.
Now Mrs. Kirchner is trying to financially ruin her critics in the press. One tool is the government’s $100 million-plus advertising budget—excluding the much larger budget for soccer broadcasts. An analysis by the daily La Nación (which publishes some Wall Street Journal content) of 2012 spending over 2011 shows a 65.3% increase in the purchase of space for public announcements and, more commonly, government propaganda in the country’s newspapers and magazines. Yet the four most important independent newspaper publishers—El Cronista, Clarín, La Nación and Perfil—all lost business from the government in 2012. La Nación lost a whopping 83%. El Cronista was down 48%, Clarín lost 37% and Perfil 12%.
The punishment doesn’t end there. At a meeting on Feb. 4 the minister of domestic commerce, Guillermo Moreno, mandated that supermarket chains would have to freeze prices for 60 days. According to a March 3 report in Clarín, Mr. Moreno also instructed those merchants present to halt the purchase of print advertising in Buenos Aires and the surrounding area media outlets. According to the Clarín report, he said the boycott would include companies that sell appliances and electronics.
The government initially denied that it had decreed any such thing. But according to Clarín, merchants told the newspaper that they are under strict orders not to buy advertising from the independent newspapers in and around the capital. Clarín said that failure to obey such commands, even though they are not law, can be costly. Businesses fear government reprisals in the form of tax inspections, the withholding of import licenses, and lawsuits brought in the name of consumer protection.
As you all know by now, Bob Woodward, the guy who brought down Nixon, has made the White House unhappy by (correctly) asserting that sequestration was Obama’s idea in the first place. So unhappy that, after being yelled at for an hour, Woodward received an email from Gene Sperling, economic adviser to the president, promising(?)
But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim.
As editor-in-chief of National Journal, I received several e-mails and telephone calls from this White House official filled with vulgarity, abusive language, and virtually the same phrase that Woodward called a veiled threat. “You will regret staking out that claim,” The Washington Post reporter was told.
Once I moved back to daily reporting this year, the badgering intensified. I wrote Saturday night, asking the official to stop e-mailing me. The official wrote, challenging Woodward and my tweet. “Get off your high horse and assess the facts, Ron,” the official wrote.
And thus the facade continues: promising peace and delivering expanded war, with new frontiers broken for drone killings of children and other innocents, legal justifications crafted for killing Americans, and near-limitless executive power over nearly every aspect of our lives. Reciting the Progressive line while delivering impoverishment, decreased access and less-affordable healthcare, clearly it matters only what he says, not what is. His hoped-for next act: new goals of gun control that would make the most vulnerable more so, an increased minimum wage that would further exacerbate the inability of those with no work experience to get an entry-level job in which to hone the skills that will put them on the economic ladder, and “green” measures, based, like the Life of Pi, on computer-generated fantasy so much more appealing than dry real-world data.
1) Given how he so often says he wakes up every morning thinking about what he could do to create jobs, it’s interesting that he says his inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform (even when he totally controlled Congress) was his biggest failure. But I suppose that can be written off as simple pandering.
Which, incidentally, didn’t work, since Ramos did not let him off the hook later in the interview,
2) His biggest lesson, meanwhile, is that “you can’t change Washington from the inside.” Wait a second. In the 2008 primaries, his whole argument with Hillary Clinton was over this exact question. She believed that you can change Washington from the inside and Barack Obama said you couldn’t.
You told me during an interview that you and Mr. Holder did not authorize the Fast and Furious operation that allowed 2,000 weapons from the United States into Mexico and they were in the drug trafficking [cartels'] hands,” Univision co-host Jorge Ramos asked Obama, according to a translator, during the interview. “I think that up to 100 Mexicans might have died and also American agent Brian Terry. There’s a report that 14 agents were responsible for the operation but shouldn’t the attorney general, Eric Holder, he should have known about that and if he didn’t, should you fire him?”
Obama responded with similar talking points his administration has used time and again.
“Well, first of all, I think it’s important to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program, begun under the previous administration,” Obama said. “When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. We assigned an inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued — confirming that in fact Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and that the people who did initiate this were held accountable. But, what I think is most important is recognizing that we’ve got a challenge in terms of weapons flowing south, and the strategy that was pursued out of Arizona, obviously, was completely wrongheaded. Those folks who were responsible have been held accountable. The question now is, how do we move forward with a strategy that will actually work?”
“We are going to have to work with Mexican law enforcement to accomplish this, but I will tell you that Eric Holder has my complete confidence, because he has shown himself to be willing to hold accountable those who took these actions and is passionate about making sure that we’re preventing guns from getting into the wrong hands,” Obama continued.
Ramos followed up in English: “But if you have nothing to hide, then why are you not releasing papers to the –”
Obama responded: “The truth is we’ve released thousands of papers.
“We’ve released almost all of them,” Obama said. “The ones that we don’t release, typically, relate to internal communications that were not related to the actual Fast and Furious operation. The challenge that we have is that, at any given moment in the federal government, there may be people who do dumb things, and I’ve seen it, I promise. Ultimately, I’m responsible and my key managers, including the attorney general, are responsible for holding those people accountable, for making sure that they are fired if they do dumb things and then fixing the system to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, and I’m very confident that you will not see any kinds of actions like this in the future, but what I don’t like to see is these kinds of issues becoming political circuses or ways to score political points in Congress partly because it becomes a distraction from us doing the business that we need to do for the American people.”
When pressed on for an independent investigation,
Obama answered: “Well, understand that, not only have we had multiple hearings in Congress, but the inspector general is put in place specifically to be independent from the attorney general. This attorney general’s [sic] report was not a whitewash in any way. I mean, it was tough on the Justice Department, and it indicated that, potentially, more supervision was needed, people should have known in some cases, even if they didn’t actually know. So, it was, I think, independent, honest, it was a clear assessment of what had gone wrong in that situation.”
“And we are happy to continue to provide the information that is relevant to this, but one of the things that happens in Washington is, very quickly, these issues become political distractions as opposed to us actually solving the problems that we need to solve,” Obama continued. “And, this issue of guns flowing south is a hard issue to solve, because this country respects the Second Amendment, we want to protect the rights of gun owners and those who are seeking to purchase firearms, but oftentimes that’s exploited as well. And so we’ve got to make sure we’re properly balancing the rights of U.S. citizens but making sure that we’re also interdicting those arms that would get into the hands of criminals.”
Video below the fold, since it starts right away, (more…)