Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chavez and media spin

On Friday, the Irish Independent published this article on the subject of Hugo Chavez and Venezuela.

It struck me as so biased and skewed, I wrote a letter to the editor, which was published yesterday (only in the print version)

The original text of the letter is below - the version as printed (nearly identical) is in the image on the right.

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Your article “Chavez’s idea of democracy – it’s a job for life” (Friday 17th August) showed bias on a number of counts. You categorically state his reforms would make him “president for life”, but later in the article clarify that the reforms actually remove a limitation on the number of terms the President can serve. Is there some limitation on the number of terms the same person can be Taoiseach of which I am not aware?

Having misrepresented the reforms, you tar his speech as “rambling” and “reminiscent of his close ally and friend Fidel Castro”. Is there a genuine purpose to this comparison in the context of the Venezuela reforms, beyond an attempt to associate Chavez with Castro so that criticisms against one (factual or not) might be implicitly perceived against the other?

You then dismiss the assembly debate as a forgone “rubberstamp”, claiming the assembly is 100% “Chavista” due to the opposition boycotting the 2005 elections. The opposition boycotted these elections because they would have lost and their best hope against Chavez was not a fair election, but to undermine the legitimacy of his government by refusing to compete. The bias against Chavez in the west allows the opposition to engage in such undemocratic tactics, and then label themselves (with the support of our media) as the democratic martyrs.

The reforms must then go to the population in a referendum, which you assert he is “unlikely to struggle to win, as he has spent millions of dollars in oil revenue enlarging his power base by bolstering the ranks of state employees”. Nowhere is there any mention of the dramatic improvements in healthcare and education that Chavez has brought about, and no hint that he might be popular due to policies that favour the poor majority of the country.

In one short article, you have presented reforms which bring the Venezuelan electoral system closer to the Irish/UK model as a lifetime power-grab, ignored the assembly debate by implicitly blaming Chavez for the oppositions refusal to compete in elections, and ignored the results of a referendum that has not yet happened on the basis that the only way Chavez could have become popular is by corruption and bribery.

Is this what the Independent considers fair and impartial journalism?

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