“Distorting Democracy – The Media & Venezuela”

Don’t think of a dictator

The dominant frame that runs almost without exception throughout Irish mainstream coverage is that President Hugo Chavez is on the road to becoming a dictator. While it is perhaps counterproductive to introduce a distorted frame, it is necessary to recognise it in order to dispel it.

In the lead up to and following the recent referendum on proposed constitutional changes the Irish media devoted numerous articles to their discussion. But while the proposed changes numbered nearly 70, including “amendments that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or physical health; provide for gender parity for political parties; guarantee free university education and make it more difficult for homeowners to lose their homes during bankruptcy,” the media focused on just one – the proposed abolition of presidential terms limits. And despite the proposal being very clear: “The Presidential Period is 7 years. The President of the Republic may be re-elected.” (i.e. the citizens will remain in control of any re-elections), many journalists appeared to encounter severe interpretive difficulty in fully grasping the proposition.

Thus we were served up some remarkably inaccurate statements and observations including the following: [19] [20] “HUGO Chavez proposed sweeping changes to Vene-zuela’s constitution yesterday, which would make him president for life.” [Chavez’s idea of democracy… it’s a job for life, Irish Independent, August 17 2007] [15] “He … is currently in the process of destroying the Venezuelan constitution to allow him become ruler-for-life.” [What’s the Spanish for a useful idiot?, Irish Independent, August 08 2007] [21] “proposals were more focused on allowing Chavez to remain in office for as long as he wanted, and in the manner he wanted” [No, Mr. President, The Sunday Tribune, December 9 2007] [22] “proposed changes to its constitution that would give its populist leader Hugo Chavez new tools to accelerate his socialist revolution and potentially remain president for life.” [David Usborne, Venezuela votes on Chavez revolution, Irish Independent, December 3 2007] [23] “One of the most controversial proposals in the charter would abolish presidential term limits, giving the 53-year-old populist the opportunity to remain in office indefinitely.” [Proposal in Venezuela may mean less work, more play, Juan Forero, Irish Times, November 2 2007] [24] This pervasive distortion of easily identifiable fact reinforces an underlying and corrupting ideology behind much of the mainstream reporting on Venezuela. That numerous intelligent and critical thinkers, which many journalists no doubt are, can settle on the same misrepresentation, one that coincidentally pars with the rhetoric of powerful Western leaders, either constitutes an amazing turn of chance or simply further evidences the embedded nature of corporate journalism. Read full Media Shot: http://www.mediabite.org/mediashots_latest.html