Thursday, January 25, 2007
This article by Stephen Lendman, on the nationalization of the right-wing Venezeulan TV station that helped orchestrate the attempted dictatorial coup in 2002 and its constant promotion of sedition afterwards, has a somewhat, ah, hyperbolic tone that irritates the hell out of me -- and I'm sympathetic to its conclusions. The sheer level of factual information, presented in its proper context, is attention-grabbing enough. Here's a few key excerpts:
On December 28, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias delivered his annual "greeting speech" to the National Armed Forces (FAN) and announced the operating license of TV station Radio Caracas Television (known as RCTV) broadcasting on VHF Channel 2 won't be renewed when it expires on May 27, 2007. The station played a leading role, along with the other four major commercial private television channels in the country controlling 90% of the TV market, in instigating and supporting the 2002 aborted two-day coup against President Chavez. Later in the year they acted together again in similar fashion as an active participant in the economically destructive 2002-03 main trade union confederation (CTV) - chamber of commerce (Fedecameras) lockout and industry-wide oil strike that included sabotage against the state oil company PDVSA costing it overall an estimated $14 billion in lost revenue and damage. A collaborative alliance of the five media "majors" that include Globovision, Televen, CMT and Venevision (owned by billionaire strident anti-Chavista Gustavo Cisneros who's called the Rupert Murdoch of Latin America because of his vast media holdings) along with RCTV began their anti-Chavez campaign soon after Hugo Chavez assumed office in 1999. In addition, 9 of the 10 major national dailies were part of the joint corporate effort to harm Chavez's popular support and undermine his legitimacy even before he had a chance to implement his socially democratic agenda now flourishing under his Bolivarian Revolution. [...] The corporate media alliance, that included RCTV, had prior knowledge of the April, 2002 coup plot that was apparent from the front page of national daily El Nacional in a special day of the coup April 11 edition of the paper printed before it began and headlined: The Final Battle Will Be in Miraflores (the presidential palace). The same day, another daily, The Daily Journal (an English language paper), headlined on its front page (also printed in advance of the coup's initiation): State of Agony Stunts Government. In the days leading up to April 11, 2002, Venevision, Globovision, Televen and RCTV suspended regular programming replacing it with anti-Chavez speeches and virulent propaganda featuring strong rhetoric and calling on the Venezuelan people to take to the streets on that day they knew in advance had been scheduled for the coup. They blared it was "For freedom and democracy. Venezuela will not surrender. No one will defeat us." This went on continuously in tone and content practically announcing a call to arms insurrection on the scheduled coup date asking people to participate supporting the overthrow of their democratically elected president and government. On April 10, one day before the coup, General Nestor Gonzales got air time on the major corporate broadcast media announcing the high military command demanded Hugo Chavez step down from office or be forcibly removed. The day following the coup, the dominant commercial media revealed their involvement in it, and on one April 12 Venevision morning program military and civilian coup leaders appeared on-air to thank the corporate media channels for their important role, including the images they aired while it was in progress, stating how important their participation was to the success of the plot. It failed two days later largely because of mass public opposition to it with huge crowds on the streets supporting their president in far greater numbers than those favoring the coup-plotters. It was also later revealed the two-day only installed Venezuelan president Pedro Carmona had used the facilities of Gustavo Cisneros' Venevision as a "bunker" or staging area base of operations and was seen leaving its building heading for the Miraflores to take office as president of Venezuela on April 11 in flagrant violation of the law. [...] ... a managing producer of the station's El Observer news program testified to the Venezuelan National Assembly that he and others at the station got orders on the day of the coup from RCTV's owner that on April 11 and the following day: "No information on Chavez, his followers, his ministers, and all others" was to be allowed on-air on the station. Instead the corporate media falsely reported Hugo Chavez had resigned when, in fact, he'd been forcibly removed and was being held against his will. They all knew it because they were told in advance and were part of the scheme. On April 13, when hundreds of thousands of Chavez supporters took to the streets, the corporate media TV stations ignored them and instead broadcast old movies and cartoons like nothing of importance was happening. Even when the coup was aborted and pro-Chavez cabinet members returned to the presidential palace, it got no coverage on corporate-run TV or in the dominant print media. In addition, state television was taken off the air suppressing any truth coming out that lasted until Chavez supporters took over the station and began broadcasting real information to the public for the first time after the coup and until things returned to normal following it. Even after Hugo Chavez was freed and returned to the Miraflores, the only station broadcasting it was the state-owned channel. The dominant private media instead maintained strict censorship in a further collaborative act of defiance. They refused to admit or inform the public that Hugo Chavez was returned to office because the people of Venezuela demanded it and succeeded in spite of all obstacles impeding them. [...] The dominant Venezuelan corporate media remained defiant even in defeat and showed it only months later that year in December, 2002 when a second de facto planned coup plot against Hugo Chavez began. This time it took the form of the opposition declaring a "general strike" that was reported that way by the corporate media even though, in fact, it was a management-imposed lockout workers had no part in or wanted. News reports falsely portrayed it as an oil industry workers' strike supported by laborers and management. It was not as it was planned and implemented by high level managers and executives in the oil industry who sabotaged equipment, changed access codes, and locked workers out of computer information systems halting production. The action devastated the Venezuelan economy. It threw many thousands out of work, affected other businesses, caused many to go bankrupt, and effectively destabilized the country for over two months. During this period, the corporate media took full advantage launching an information war against the Chavez government. Again the four main TV stations suspended all regular programming replacing it with pro-opposition propaganda round the clock non-stop for the 64 day strike period denouncing Chavez and only stopping when the strike ended. [...] After Hugo Chavez announced RCTV's VHF license wouldn't be renewed, 1BC president (and owner of RCTV) Marcel Granier responded: "We all know what this is all about. They are trying to abolish freedom of speech and force the media to obey Government rules." He also falsely tried claiming his license ran until 2012 because it was renewed for 10 years in 2001. William Lara, head of Venezuela's Ministry of Information and Communications, explained the license, in fact, was gotten in May, 1987 and had only been resubmitted in 2001 because of the passage of a new communications law that year. Lara also said in a subsequent press conference Chavez's move against RCTV should come as no surprise and added this move is not a "revocation or expropriation" of the privately-owned RCTV but just the "termination" of its license. Lara said Chavez intends to "rescue" the channel for the Venezuelan people. RCTV will still be able to operate on public airwaves via cable and satellite, and Channel 2's concession will either be given to an RCTV worker cooperative, a public-private consortium, or to the state for use as an entertainment channel with state Channel 8 (VTV) becoming a 24 hour news channel and both channels henceforth airing a better mix of socially responsible programming. The result will be greater democratization of the public airwaves with less control of them in the hands of media oligarchs and more of it given to the people of Venezuela. This is how a functioning democracy is supposed to work. It can't if public airwaves are controlled by corporate media giants operating in their own self-interest while ignoring issues vital to the public welfare the way oligarchs do it in Venezuela. [...] If any part of the US media - corporate run, controlled or otherwise - reported the kind of strident anti-government propaganda intended to incite public hostility, violence and rebellion the way the Venezuelan dominant media do, they'd be subject to indictment on charges of sedition and possibly treason against the state - offenses far more serious than just the right to remain operating. During the 2002 April aborted coup and later anti-Chavez insurrection in the form of a general strike and management-imposed oil industry lockout, the Venezuelan corporate media acted in league with the oligarch opposition coup-plotters trying to overthrow democratically elected Hugo Chavez and his government. In the US, this would be a violation of several laws at least including seditious conspiracy under Section 2384 of the US Code, Title 18 which states: "If two or more persons in any State or Territory (of the US)....conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the (elected) Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. They might also be charged with treason under Article 3, Section 3 of the US Constitution that defines this crime that's a far more serious offense and may be subject to capital punishment for those found guilty. Its definition under Section 3 states: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." It would then remain for the courts to decide whether any individuals by their actions of trying to subvert and overthrow a duly constituted government would be guilty of this crime or any sub-category under it explained below. That might, in fact, happen, especially in the current US climate where the law is what the chief executive says it is, and the courts are stacked with supportive judges willing to go along. Consider what crimes are related to treason in the US and how easily Venezuelan corporate media actions to subvert Hugo Chavez might fall under them. [...] The oligarchs running the Venezuelan corporate media might contemplate that fate and be grateful they operate in democratic Venezuela and not in the truly harsh environment of the United States. Of course, they won't, their anti-Chavez campaign will go on unabated, and it will be supported by their counterparts in the US and Bush administration labeling Hugo Chavez a ruthless tyrant trying to destroy free speech and democracy and calling for his head.
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