Communications Ministry Accuses Spanish CNN of Biased News Coverage

Andrés Izarra, Minister of Communication and Information of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in a correspondence directed to Chris Crommett, Director of CNN En Español, denounced the obviously biased news coverage of Venezuela.

By Minister Andrés Izarra
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Andrés Izarra, Minister of Communication and Information of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in a correspondence directed to Chris Crommett, Director of CNN En Español, denounced the obviously biased news coverage of Venezuela. He specifically mentioned the abduction of Rodrigo Granda, the expropriation of the company VENEPAL, and Latin American Integration. "This slant has also been applied to other Venezuelan themes, especially to those for which the audience most needs an objective critique, such as the laws that defend children’s rights in the face of television, or that normalize the ownership of land".

The full text follows:

Caracas, February 2, 2005.

CHRIS CROMMETT
NEWS DIRECTOR
CNN EN ESPAÑOL

Receive a respectful greeting on this occasion of calling to your attention, once again, the evident bias of CNN En Español regarding recent news coverage of Venezuela. On this opportunity, we are specifically referring to the coverage January 10 to 17, 2005.

We quantitatively examined 26 statements transmitted by CNN regarding the abduction of Rodrigo Granda. Of these, 21 (including that of 6 Venezuelan members of the opposition), justified the abduction and the violation of Venezuelan sovereignty, while only 5 condemned it. Qualitatively, this CNN coverage appears even more one-sided.

On 10 January, both countries’ positions on the topic were reviewed, but the opinion of the Colombian analyst Vicente Torrijo’s was presented without a Venezuelan counterpoint. On the 13th, CNN presented a brief (1 minute, 10 seconds) clip of statements made by the Venezuelan vice President followed by a much longer (2 minutes and 30 seconds) clip of six Colombian spokespersons justifying the kidnapping within Venezuelan territory. On the 14th, in a report by Ligimat Pérez, CNN reported that President Hugo Chávez ordered the suspension of ensuing trade agreements with Colombia. In a second report, Perez digressed toward the topic of Venezuelan economic growth in 2004, disqualifying it with words from Alexander Guerrero, who was presented as an objective "analyst" instead of as a well-known spokesperson for the Venezuelan opposition.

Two more themes, the Integration of Latin America and the expropriation of the business VENEPAL, were utilized to obscure the Granda case. That same day, on CNN a Colombian spokesperson suggested that Bogota must "open up to the possibility of recognizing some irregularity", but immediately two other guests questioned the Venezuelan position. In "Panorama Mundial", Patricia Janiot interviewed Mr. Oppenheimer, political analyst of CNN and of the Miami Herald, who qualified the situation as a "smoke screen" and "media show of the Venezuelan President" designed to "distract attention away from what he is doing to the country", which is converting it in to a "club" of international terrorism and a sanctuary for guerrillas. CNN did not present any perspective to counter the viewpoint of Oppenheimer. In a CNN interview on the15th, following the lead of the Bush Administration spokespersons, who have labeled the Venezuelan government as "authoritarian", Otto Reich (repeated aggressor against the government of President Chávez) and Arturo Valenzuela warned that Venezuela "must remain within democratic parameters".

No other opinions were presented.

On January 16, the Colombian Defense Minister, Jorge Alberto Uribe, who had previously declared that the Colombian police possessed "evidence" that Granda had been apprehended in Cúcuta, admitted that their government had paid a reward for the abduction. CNN transmitted this disclosure without contrasting it with his previous statement and without pointing out that this confirmed the Venezuelan version of events. Neither did CNN recall that the Minister, when interviewed a month before by VTV (Venezuelan of Television), contradicted the accusations that Venezuela protected guerrillas, saying "we leave aside all those rumors".

In a January 17 report from Venezuela, three Venezuelan spokespersons were presented; one was Andrés Izarra, Minister of Communication and Information, and the other two were opposition leaders (Henry Ramos Allup and Alberto Garrido) who supported the violation of national sovereignty. Again, there is imbalance. This same day, CNN transmitted PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ’S rejection to the Colombian proposal for a multilateral meeting to discuss the Granda case. Instead of contrasting it with a Colombian spokesperson of similar rank, they followed it with Venezuelan opponent Julio Borges asserting that the President "should ask for forgiveness".

This slant has also been applied to other Venezuelan themes, especially to those for which the audience most needs an objective critique, such as the laws that defend children’s rights in the face of television, or that normalize the ownership of land.

It is understandable that CNN would favor the interests of the United States government, but not to the point of dishonoring its ethical contract with its main client: the audience. We reiterate our request that CNN balance its coverage on Venezuela and review the political positions and ethics of its contractors in our country as well as the quality of the work of its editors.

Receive, along with my gratitude for your attention to this matter, my feelings of appreciation and consideration,

Sincerely,

ANDRÉS IZARRA
MINISTER OF COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION
BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA