Venezuela to Host Latin American Meeting Against Media Terrorism

Andrés Izarra, the Venezuelan Minister of Communication and Information, announced that a Latin American Meeting against Media Terrorism will examine the media war waged by domestic and foreign private media against the Venezuelan and other like-minded leftist governments.

Mérida, March 24, 2008 ( Andrés Izarra, the Venezuelan Minister of Communication and Information, announced that a Latin American Meeting against Media Terrorism will take place this coming weekend in Caracas, whose main theme will be the media war waged by domestic and foreign private media against the Venezuelan and other like-minded leftist governments in the region.

Over the course of the weekend, Caracas "will be converted into the world capital of the struggle against media terrorism," Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez proclaimed in support of the meeting Monday.

"It is necessary to discuss themes such as this," Chávez sustained, "since media terrorism utilizes the means of communication – radio, press, and television – to generate war, violence, fear and anxiety in our peoples."

The media war is also going on in Bolivia, Ecuador, and other countries whose governments promote social change, according to Izarra. As an example, he highlighted the efforts of the Bogotá-based daily El Tiempo and Spanish El País to link Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) during the conflict sparked by Colombian attacks on the FARC in Ecuadorian territory in early March.

Focusing on links with the FARC in order to distract from Colombia's violation of national sovereignty was "evidence of how they create media matrices based on lies, information taken out of context, and repeated by the principal media," Izarra outlined.

In addition, Izarra cited investigations conducted by his ministry that reveal that 78% of the mainstream European media coverage of Venezuela during 2007 was negative toward the Chávez administration. The minister also harshly denounced the "rabidly contrarian" Washington Post, which "emits editorials that are totally out of touch with reality and aligned with the real interests of the Bush administration."

Freddy Fernández, the president of the Bolivarian News Agency, commented that "Venezuela has a very rich experience with regard to media terrorism," having faced 10 years of "systematic campaigning" against the government by "almost all private media," which, he claimed, represent the interests of transnational corporations.

The meeting this weekend will be a "response" to all of this, Fernández said, especially to the actions of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), which will hold a conference in Caracas this weekend as well. Fernández described IAPA as a "cartel" of corporate media interests that "has been the launching point for the strategy of domination that the United States pushes on the whole continent."

The IAPA, which was founded in the 1940s by the CIA and U.S. State Department, called Chávez "totalitarian" in its October 2007 Report on Press Freedom. It also claimed Chávez was "running over the constitution" and producing laws such as the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television in order to restrict media freedom. It also campaigned against Venezuela`s new constitution, which was approved by popular vote in 1999.

Victor Ego Ducrot, the press director for MERCOSUR, an organization which promotes South American economic integration, predicted in an article published last Wednesday that the IAPA, "true to its style… will surely convert its next meeting in the city of Caracas into a provocation against Venezuela."

Ducrot strongly discounted the IAPA's claims about dangers to media freedom in Argentina and Brazil, which are both members of MERCOSUR. He added that such "manipulation, disinformation, and systematic lying by the large media corporations, and the concentration of the media and technological resources in few transnational hands," are "concrete enemies" of right of citizens to have access to information.

President Chávez and Minister Izarra were formally invited to the IAPA conference this weekend, but it is unclear if they will attend.

Chávez invited all Venezuelans to attend the Latin American Meeting against Media Terrorism this weekend, while Izarra made a special call directly to students. Fernández emphasized that journalists from 14 Latin American countries including Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Ecuador will participate in the forum.

Some of the workshops presented will be titled "Masters of the Press," "Media Warfare in Latin America," "Venezuela Under Fire," "The People in the Struggle against Media Terrorism," and "Imperialism vs. Latin American Unity," according to the Ministry of Communication and Information website.

Another topic of discussion will be the behavior of Globovisión, a private opposition-run television channel that has been "plagued with cases of lack of ethics, lies, and offenses," Izarra said during his interview today.

Controversy has arisen in recent months over speculations that Globovisión could be sanctioned by the government for violating the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television.

In early February, 30 pro-Chávez organizations met in Caracas, to solicit the revocation of Globovisión's broadcast license. The National Assembly gave its backing to such civil society initiatives, and Cilia Flores, the President of the National Assembly, denounced that the channel was "creating terrorism."

In late February, Izarra clarified that the government "has no intention of closing down Globovisión… its rights are guaranteed in the constitution," and demanded that the channel "respect" President Chávez and "analyze the information they transmit day by day, so that they do not continue making the same errors."

The minister repeated today that Globovisión would not be shut down, but called the channel a "sewer" and said the state media outlets are "more attached to the truth and of higher quality" than the private media.

Moreover, he called for the social responsibility commission of the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) to be more active in enforcing the law, which the minister said aims to democratize the media by responding to consumers who "clamor for a more ethical and decent television."

Also today, Izarra opposed proposals by opposition parties as well as some supporters of Chávez to shut down the controversial pro-government talk show "La Hojilla" ("The Razor"), which is dedicated to critiquing the falsities in opposition media. The minister called the show a "tool for the media war," and said it was a good thing that opposition leaders were "irritated" by the show because that meant it was uncovering the truth.