The shutdown of Venezuela’s RCTV has incited a heated debate amongst political activists and free speech advocates. On one hand, the station has been accused of promoting disobedience and lawlessness directed at President Hugo Chavez’ government and affiliating with organizations that participated in a 2002 coup attempt of Chavez. It is also part of a corporatist media clique that controls much of Venezuela’s press. On the other hand, state clampdowns on private media should not be tolerated and Reporters Without Borders has condemned the action as a serious violation of freedom of expression.
I believe there is merit to both sides of this debate, but there is another side that is much more clear cut. CNN’s reporting of affairs in Venezuela has included some blatantly partisan coverage. In one instance, CNN aired footage identified as a protest in Venezuela, but was actually from an unrelated protest in Mexico. On another occasion they aired images of Chavez and Osama bin Laden closely together although there was no story linking the two.
In response to complaints from Venezuela’s Information Minister, William Lara, CNN said that they had already issued a “detailed apology” for the Mexican footage and played down any significance of the bin Laden juxtaposition. Their overall stance was that they had not engaged in any coordinated attempt to discredit Chavez or Venezuela. That response amounts to a statement that, “We’re sorry for denigrating your country that we deny having denigrated.”
That certainly clears things up.