Human Rights Watch Keeps the Distortions Coming about Venezuela

Joe Emersberger calls out Human Rights Watch on their latest attempt to “mislead” people about the content of Venezuelan media.


Joe Emersberger calls out Human Rights Watch on their latest attempt to “mislead” people about the content of Venezuelan media.

In a blog post for the New York Review of Books, Daniel Wilkenson of Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote

“Supporters of Chávez and Maduro often seek to downplay concerns about press freedoms in Venezuela by pointing to reporting critical of the government in the country’s newspapers. It is true that the government has not targeted the print media as aggressively as television, perhaps because the number of Venezuelans who read newspapers is a small fraction of the number who watch TV.”

In other words, it is very easy to expose the lies spread by HRW, RSF and most of the international media about the state of press freedom in Venezuela by simply monitoring the content of the country’s largest newspapers. Wilkenson must therefore find some way around that inconvenient fact. Anyone who reads Spanish will be immediately shocked by the quantity and vehemence of anti-government tirades that appear. As I’ve explained elsewhere, it is child’s play to find op-eds every day that openly call Maduro a “dictator” or “assassin” or words to that effect.

What about Wilkinson’s suggestion that the numbers of people who read newspapers is too small to matter much to the government? It doesn’t stand up at all. Relative to the Venezuela’s population, the combined daily circulation of its four largest newspapers is about the same as the combined daily circulation of the four largest newspapers in the USA.

Think about that. If an anti-government group in the USA is very well represented in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today and the LA Times, how credibly could that group claim that it has been unable to effectively get its views out to the public?  And how plausible is it that a group with such a strong presence in the print media would be shut out of the TV media? Common sense should lead anyone to say that it probably isn’t true and that is exactly what very recent studies of the Venezuelan TV media have revealed.  

There is no question that some of the ways the Venezuelan government has balanced media coverage since the 2002 coup can be reasonably criticized. However what Wilkenson does in this piece, and what HRW has done relentlessly since it disgraced itself by the way it responded to the 2002 coup, is too use allegations of  censorship to completely mislead people about the actual content of the Venezuelan media. As Keane Bhatt recently noted, until HRW closes the revolving door between itself and US elites, nobody should expect much better from them.

The editors of the New York review of Books rejected comments of mine that rebutted libelous remarks about VenezuelAnysis.com made in comments under Wilkenson’s article. What a fitting way to “moderate” responses under a dishonest piece about Venezuela. (UPDATE: The two comments I posted have now been allowed to stand after I contacted the editors]


I should also have mentioned that the New York Times was recently forced to retract a falsehood that is very similar to the one Wilkenson spread in his piece:

“Two of the four private stations voluntarily dropped their critical coverage; a third was forced off the air; and the fourth was hounded by administrative sanctions and criminal charges until the owner sold it last year to investors reportedly linked to the government, who have dramatically curtailed its critical content.”

After receiving a petition signed by thousands of people the NYT conceded

An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to Globovision. Before its sale last year, it broadcast more voices critical of the Venezuelan government than any other TV station, but it was not the only one to regularly feature government critics.”