Guns & Roses in Caracas, Chavez at gunpoint

Newspaper Tal Cual´s doctoring of a Chavez photo, is an example of the kind of journalism being practiced in Venezuela today.

By Lucila Gallino and Ralph Niemeyer
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Sep. 25 cover of Caracas newspaper Tal Cual showing doctored photo of Chavez "at gunpoint". The logo of the event was deleted from the picture.
An episode worthy a Venezuelan soap opera, like the one that happened last week in the Venezuelan media, can explain once again the passions and the hatred that President Hugo Chávez and his government generate not only in Venezuela but also in the rest of the world. Would it be why Chavez is -for many- the Latin American “black sheep”?

Many things happen in Caracas every day. In this city where the violence is tolerated, the media are the daily protagonists of a mediatic explosion that shakes the nation.

On Friday September 26, the newspaper “Tal Cual” ("As such"), opponent of the Government, was sent to the streets with an issue that became the scandal of the week. On the cover of the paper, President Chávez is shown holding a 9mm caliber gun on the left hand. The publication of this high impact photo is the full responsibility of the Editor of the paper, who will have to appear before the Law for falsification of information.

The "little retouch" that was done to the original photo is not as simple as changing an image for another one. In this case, a gun was digitally put in place of a red rose that had been given to the President during the First Women World Forum underway in Caracas. Chavez gave a speech at the Forum in which 190 women from 27 countries participated in support of Venezuela’s revolutionary process.

The retouching of this photomontage exceeds all boundaries of respect. On the background of the scene, there was a poster with the logo of the Forum. The logo in the altered photo was erased in order to put the photo out of context.

The original photo was taken by Feliciano Sequera, a photographer of the Miraflores Presidential Palace in the morning of September 24, - two days before the publication of the controversial Tal Cual issue- during President Chavez’s opening speech of the Women World Forum. There, he addressed the feminine audience in a very particular style for a President, with the tender and sweet familiar tone of a dear relative.

Original photo taken by a presidential palace photographer, showing Chavez holding a rose given to him by the audience.
According to their civil employees, Chávez devours all type of books during his free time; that was demonstrated in his speech describing the most outstanding women of the history of Venezuela, in which he mentioned in repeated occasions Manuela Sáenz, Simon Bolivar’s loving and political companion. His speech inspired tones of elation from the audience, very common of the Latin. He spoke of about a complicated political scenario, but did not make any incitation to violence.

“What has happened in this case is bad journalism. It is media terrorism which is made in Venezuela by television, radio and of course by printed press”, said the Minister of Communication and Information, Jesse Chacon in a press conference offered to a small group of local and foreign journalists.” What the President has in his hand is a red rose that was offered to him. That rose is a love sign, that is the [revolutionary] process."

Tal Cual’s manipulation puts a nine millimeters gun –a sign of violence– in the President's hand. It tries to cover the love, the human warmth that this [revolutionary] process has", said Chacon.

The Minister also made a call for reflection on these events that affects the democratic process and exhorted the opposition whom he called "virtual paper parties" to engage in serious discussion in the mass media.

The episode that generated the cover of the newspaper "Tal Cual" represents an absence of journalistic values and an insurmountable example of yellow journalism of bad taste where the ignorance and lack of intelligent criticism reigns, and it is mainly an offense to the journalistic ethics. It is, without doubt, a repudiable act.

Venezuela is immersed in a situation where the essence of the politics is lying. The mass media have lost the credibility and respect of both sides of the political spectrum.


Translated by Venezuelanalysis.com.