What's Fair in Coverage of RCTV Shutdown?

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) is criticizing U.S. news media for presenting Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's non-renewal of the television station RCTV's broadcast license "as a simple matter of censorship." FAIR points out that "RCTV and other commercial TV stations were key players in the April 2002 coup that briefly ousted Chavez's democratically elected government." Moreover, "the Venezuelan government is basing its denial of license on RCTV's involvement in the 2002 coup, not on the station's criticisms of or political opposition to the government." BBC News reports that the Latin American press is portraying Chavez as "authoritarian" and Venezuelan media as "increasingly suffocated." Journalism and human rights groups have denounced the non-renewal of RCTV's license. Governments have the right not to renew a broadcast license, but a standard process should be followed, international rights groups maintain. "We're not arguing that the concession ... should be given to RCTV," said the Committee to Project Journalists' Carlos Lauria. "We're just saying that there's no process to evaluate if it should be." Just Foreign Policy's Patrick McElwee agrees, but notes that a 1987 law -- enacted previous to Chavez -- "charges the executive branch with decisions about license renewal" and "does not seem to require any administrative hearing."


In the [http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-oe-jones30may30,1,5388072.story Los Angeles Times], former AP correspondent in Venezuela Bart Jones dismisses the criticism of the RCTV non-renewal as the result of a "web of misinformation." He writes that RCTV "should not be seen as free-speech martyrs. Radio, TV and newspapers remain uncensored, unfettered and unthreatened by the government. Most Venezuelan media are still controlled by the old oligarchy and are staunchly anti-Chavez."

However, Chavez's [http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-fg-venez30may30,1,6243498.story recent remarks] about another channel, Globovision, certainly raise concerns about censorship:

"Enemies of the homeland, particularly those behind the scenes, I will give you a name: Globovision. Greetings gentlemen of Globovision, you should watch where you are going," Chavez said in a broadcast that all channels were required to show.

"I recommend you take a tranquilizer and get into gear, because if not, I am going to do what is necessary," he added.

Chavez accused Globovision of trying to incite his assassination and of misreporting protests over the closure of Radio Caracas Television in a manner that could whip up a situation similar to a coup attempt against him in 2002.