Is Hugo Chavez really music to our ears?

Venezuela, and its charismatic president Hugo Chavez, have featured On An Overgrown Path several times recently. Back in November I raised concerns about the objectivity of the Guardian's coverage (above) of Venezuela's acclaimed music education programme, and only yesterday I highlighted human rights activist Harry Belafonte's support for Chavez. So today's Observer article Mr Chavez and the death of freedom makes interesting reading. Here is an extract:

"Consider, for it's a looming headline event in 2007, the Hugo Chavez dilemma. On the one hand, many committed media freedom warriors in Britain - including Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists - vociferously support Venezuela's totemic president and all his egalitarian works. They raise money for his causes, pass NUJ conference motions of support and generally despise scribblers on the other side who think him a bit of a demagogue.

On the other hand, Aidan White, general secretary of the
International Federation of Journalists, wrote recently that the IFJ Caracas office had 'recorded 700 incidents of harassment, intimidation and violence against the media in the last four years alone'. He went on to talk about 'severely compromised conditions for professional journalism', and about how 'Chavez's violent rhetoric' against media owners has put genuinely open-minded commentators 'under constant pressure'. In a country where polarised politics habitually overwhelms much journalism, White observed, 'neither the private sector, and even less the public sector, which many see being transformed into a governmental mouthpiece, pass the test of independent journalism'. Those conclusions are substantially supported by other press freedom organisations from all over the world: the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York, the International Press Institute in Vienna, Reporteurs Sans Frontieres in Paris.

So this isn't just any old spat. It's conflict, and one which is about to grow much rougher as Chavez announces that, when its current licence to broadcast ends in March, Radio Caracas Television - the company's second-biggest media company - is out of business and that its CEO 'had better start packing his bags ... No media outlet will be tolerated here that is at the service of coup-ism, against the people, against the nation, against national independence, against the dignity of the republic'.

Perhaps we should remember that fascist dictator Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time in Italy? For more on the lifeblood of democracy, freedom of the press, take An Overgrown Path to Blogging for Tibet

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Civic Center said…
I completely share your reservations about Chavez as another proto-Fidel cult-of-personality authoritarian, but frankly the TV network Mr. Chavez is about to shut down DID try to start a coup against his lawfully elected government, so there is that.

I only wish the United States would go after Rupert Murdoch's Fox/Post/God-knows-what-else Network in the same way. They've done an extreme amount of harm to the entire world and frankly not an ounce of good.

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