Major media manipulates Venezuela coverage

As of Monday March 3, major demonstrations and counter demonstrations have been going on in Venezuela for several weeks. These have been covered in the U.S. and international press and media, but how they are covered is a major issue.

Supporters of the left- wing government of President Nicolas Maduro, of the Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV), are often aghast at the degree to which corporate controlled media echo the “line” of the right-wing opposition in their country, and end up retailing serious distortions of the situation there. This is mostly done by blocking out certain kinds of information that would put the Venezuelan government in a favorable light. But it is also common to see outright falsehoods and misrepresentations.

One example of this is reported recently in Venezuelan online media.

Ramon Soto, studying social sciences and law at the University of the Andes in Merida, a member of the youth branch of the PSUV and a strong supporter of Mr. Maduro’s government, says that on April 10 of last year, during the lead up to the hotly contested presidential elections between the PSUV’s Maduro and the right wing MUD coalition’s Henrique Capriles, he was beaten up by the Voluntud Popular (People’s Will, or VP) and the Juventud Activa Venezuela Unida (Activist Youth for a United Venezuela, or Javu). Blows to his face broke a number of bones, and took a while to heal. Photographs of his bandaged visage were then distributed online and by CNN in Spanish, with the false information that these were pictures of an opposition student beaten up by supporters of President Maduro in this year’s street conflict.

Says Soto: “There exists a series of images of my person which are being published via social [media] networks and which are unscrupulously being distributed by television programs, above all by CNN in Spanish. These are taking some old images taken of my person, which happened on April 10 of 2013, when I was attacked by hordes who were with Henrique Capriles when he came to do the closing act of his campaign” Soto told the Venezuelan News Agency (AVN). “Now they are using these images to say that there is repression in Venezuela, and fool the world”. He and others have stated that the Venezuelan opposition is circulating other images that are not even from Venezuela but from other countries and conflicts, mislabeling to create the impression that brutal repression is taking place in Venezuela.  

A number of other fake photos, circulated widely through social media in the context of the disturbances in Venezuela, have been identified.  

Very prestigious corporate news outlets such as the New York Times are lending themselves to the fakery. The New York Times was, however, recently busted by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

 A Times report suggested that the supposedly dictatorial Venezuelan regime has so far suppressed the media as to prevent the coverage of opposition political activities on television. People in Venezuela immediately spotted the mistake; in fact almost all private TV stations in Venezuela are run by people opposed to the PSUV government, which they regularly criticize. Called to account by Just Foreign Policy and others, who circulated a petition that got 13,000 signatures calling for a retraction, the Times finally climbed down and corrected its text.

However, many other U.S. and international news agencies continue to parrot the line that there is no free opposition press in Venezuela. This puts them in synch with U.S. foreign policy, which has been aiming at reversing the tendency of Latin American countries to unite in opposition to the traditional hegemonic control of the United States over the Western Hemisphere.

There are a number of far more reliable sources for Venezuela news, including the Venezuelanalysis website, and, of course, the Peoples World online – where you are reading this story!

Photo: Workers shout slogans during a pro-government march in Caracas, Venezuela. Alejandro Cegarra/AP


Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Emile Schepers was born in South Africa and has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He has worked as a researcher and activist in urban, working-class communities in Chicago since 1966. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He now writes from Northern Virginia.