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Opinion and Analysis: Media Watch

Venezuelan TV Host Mario Silva Responds to The Economist’s False Accusations

The Economist

Attn: Editor

Last August 12, 2011, an article titled “On A Razor’s Edge” appeared on your web page (www.economist.com), and had no apparent author, therefore leading us to believe it was an editorial piece and therefore your full responsibility.

With no real hope of seeing my response published on your pages, since your publication is a mouthpiece for the lies that have been sowed by mass media against Venezuela, still, I send you my commentary:

1- It is false and was proven so at the time with video footage and other material shown before the people of Venezuela, that I ever insinuated the actress Norkys Batista owed her success to “sexual favors”. The event you cite in your article was part of a systematic campaign run by the Venezuelan TV channel RCTV against the Bolivarian Revolution and against those of us who denounced the role the media played in the April 2002 coup d’etat in our country. RCTV’s campaign became ruthless after it was announced their broadcasting license would not be renewed in 2007. Your using that false claim is a blatant manipulation of fact.

2- It is false that I have ties to intelligence agencies in my country and it’s even more false that President Hugo Chavez has something to do with the content of my program, or that he would approve of any action that violates our constitution. What is true, and not stated by you, is that the recordings used in my program were available in the public domain and were circulated by a Twitter account named @mesadealacranes; a space that presumably was created by members, or former members, of opposition political parties that were part of an opposition political coalition, the MUD, and were very upset by the policies of exclusion imposed by the leadership.

3- It’s false that I ordered an attack against Lorent Saleh, who was leader of a paramilitary organization known as JAVU, trained by OTPOR. Not even Mr. Lorent was able to accuse me before the prosecutor’s office because of lack of proof, as well as his own history of violent actions. He also has close ties with right-wing forces, amongst them, the owner of El Nacional newspaper, Miguel Henrique Otero.

4- It’s false that I difamed the Union of Workers at Venezolana de Television (Venezuelan public television). What is true is that we continue to struggle against a union in the heart of our public television station that has ties to the extreme right-wing and is led by a man with four accusations against him for gender violence and who hasn’t accounted for the union’s funds during the past two years.

5- The case of Nestor Francia, an ex-colleague, was sufficienty ventilated in the public opinion at the time and there is no proof at all linking me to para-police groups. Your using those types of references is another clear case of manipulation of fact.

6- It is not true that I have every slandered the mother of Miguel Henrique Otero, owner of the newspaper El Nacional. There is not one second of any transmission of my programa, La Hojilla, in which the name Maria Teresa Castillo is mentioned before this claim was made. All the videos of every program where I have mentioned Miguel Henrique Otero are available to the courts. The adjective “son of a bitch” in our country refers to a “bad person” according to the Dictionary of the Royal Academy of Spain. Mrs. Maria Teresa Castillo is, as I have now said clearly on camera, an honorable person, widow of the excellent writer Miguel Otero Silva, former director of the newspaper now poorly run by his son. I assume The Economist is either issuing an opinion based on cultural ignorance, or is playing into the manipulative actions encouraged by Mr. Miguel Henrique Otero.

After clarifying the above points, I would like to make several observations:

It’s alarming that you, The Economist, would echo just one side of the case, because this evidences an ethical violation of the media’s duty to investigate, consult, double-check sources, fact-check and verify information before publishing. Moreover, you appear to take the story as an “inalterable truth”, exercising a role as an accomplice in an international campaign orchestrated against Venezuela.

It’s also alarming that you who so strongly defend freedom of expression feel offended by those of us who exercise it. Freedom of expression is not exclusive to just one sector or political ideology. The Economist and Mr. Miguel Henrique Otero employ cheap manipulation in order to hide or lessen what today is a known fact worldwide: Venezuela is carrying out a social and economic revolution that affects powerful economic interests.

It’s a further cause for alarm that in 2009, the same Mr. Miguel Henrique Otero, publicly called the mother of alternative journalist Jorge Amorin, my colleague on La Hojilla, a “prostitute”. That declaration (“Everybody knows your mother is a prostitute”) was ironically made by Otero during a march of the National Journalists Association in defense of “freedom of expression”. This fact was never reported by The Economist.

In our National Assembly, an investigation has been opened into the recent purchase of a television station presumably linked to drug-trafficking. The purchase was made by former director of Globovision, Alberto Federico Ravell, a personal friend of the owner of El Nacional. Regarding this investigation, nothing has been reported in any national private media or in The Economist.

The majority of organizations allegedly defending “human rights” in our country receive funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and USAID – both US government agencies. More than $20 million has already been requested by the US government to fund opposition political parties and anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela in 2012. The Economist has neglected to publish or report on this information.

Miguel Henrique Otero participated in the coup d’etat against President Chavez in 2002. On the afternoon of April 11, 2002, he ordered the publication of a special edition of the paper that called for a violent confrontation of Venezuelans at the presidential palace, with no regards as to the severe damage such incitement could cause.

Recently, Miguel Henrique Otero published a photograph of the Bello Monte morgue in Caracas knowing the picture was outdated and no longer reflected the reality of that institution. However, he presented it as a current image. He wasn’t concerned about the family members affected by the old photo of their lost loved ones or the emotional damage such a graphic photo on the front page could cause to the public. Ironically, Miguel Henrique Otero justified the publication by invoking the “sacred right to freedom of expression”.

Miguel Henrique Otero also difamed and discriminated against a majority of Venezuelan people that voted for President Hugo Chavez five years ago in an editorial in El Nacional calling them, “...those people who carry a flask of rum in their pockets and a roll of bread under their arms...” We suppose The Economist doesn’t know, or care, about any of this.

Editors of The Economist, I am not surprised by the publication of an article with tabloid connotations, that lacks any kind of journalist rigor, that obeys a campaign iniciated by an individual with no morals or ethics, and that unfortunately, you have repeated.

Is it true that Maria Silva is a leftist? Yes I am, a practicing one. It’s not a crime to be a leftist and this should not discredit me in the eyes of public opinion.

In conclusion, I’d like to know how committed The Economist is to the people of England. Interesting things are happening in Europe, above all in Spain, Greece and England. Arresting and beating a 10-year old child is not news we can ignore. Beating down people who are demanding from their government more social equality and a just economy is not news we can silence.

How would you label those who fight for healthcare, free education and honorable work that allows them to live in dignified conditions? When will media understand they were not created to defend the most powerful or multinational corporations? Do you believe the truth can be silenced and the people will allow themselves to continue as victims of mass media manipulation?

The hunger of people cannot be hidden by tabloids or tall tales against our revolutions and their leaders.

Sincerely,

Mario Silva

Anchor, La Hojilla