Reuters Article an Example of Media Complacency and Corruption

Corporate journalists have sometimes complained that I address them with an excessively harsh and undiplomatic tone. Below is an email to Reuters that I sent in response to an article about the latest allegations Human Rights Watch (HRW) made against the Venezuelan government. I was too polite in my email.


While Reuters apparently has the time and resources to explore allegations of corruption in the Venezuelan government’s funding of communal councils, it cannot mention, not even in passing, very damning and readily available criticism made of HRW,  a group run by North American elites. This is typical of the corporate media’s easy acceptance of dishonesty on the part of governments and organizations whose activities align with US foreign policy. This complacency is a form of corruption – even when it doesn’t take a blatant and vulgar form – that deserves very harsh judgment. By failing to educate readers, as it very easily could have, about what serious Latin American scholars have said about HRW, or about a grave falsehood HRW has recently spread about the Venezuelan media, Reuters also raises serious doubts about the accuracy of its report on Venezuela’s communal councils, in fact all its Venezuela reporting.  What other important sources and facts has Reuters ignored that readers are not in a position to check?

Reuters has often seemed to make an effort (unlike the Associated Press) to avoid becoming propagandists for the Venezuelan opposition, but this article really exposes Reuters’ limitations. Media corruption will continue to restrict democracy until journalists no longer have to choose between independence (from government and corporate power) and access to a significant audience.


RE: Venezuela violated rights of protesters: rights group

Dear Brian Ellsworth

Why, in this article, do you leave readers to investigate for themselves how reliable HRW is in what it says about Venezuela? You mention only the Venezuelan government’s criticism of HRW but not those of independent scholars.

For example, in 2008, 100 scholars, including Noam Chomsky, sent HRW a petition objecting to a lengthy 2008 report about Venezuela.

The petition stated that the report “does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility”.

Just recently HRW official, Daniel Wilkinson, made a demonstrably false claim about the Venezuelan TV media in an article for the New York Review of Books, essentially the same falsehood the New York Times recently corrected, but only after receiving a petition from thousands of people.

HRW and the NYRB, both of whom are copied on this note, have simply ignored numerous requests to have the article corrected. These facts about HRW could have been mentioned without sacrificing brevity at all.

Why does Reuters seem to feel obliged to shield HRW from criticism?

Joe Emersberger