About twenty United States scholars, among them writer Noam Chomsky and film maker Oliver Stone, sent a letter to Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor for The New York Times, urging Sullivan to investigate the biased reporting on Venezuela and particularly when dealing with the government of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez.
The petition claims the New Yor Times has used a language too close to the U.S. government’s positions in the past four years, referring to Chavez as an “autocrat,” “despot,” “authoritarian ruler” and a “caudillo” in its news coverage.
Besides, “when opinion pieces are included, the Times has published at least fifteen separate articles employing such language, depicting Chavez as a ‘dictator’ or ‘strongman’.”
The experts compare The New York Times’s characterization of Hugo Chavez to that of Honduras in 2009, when president Manuel Zelaya was overthrown and replaced by Roberto Micheletti, and then by Porfirio Lobo.
“Times contributors have never used such terms to describe Micheletti, who presided over the coup regime after Zelaya’s removal, or Porfirio Lobo, who succeeded him. Instead, the paper has variously described them in its news coverage as ‘interim,’ ‘de facto,’ and ‘new’.”
The signed petition reminds as well that Porfirio Lobo assumed the Honduran presidency after winning elections which “were marked by repression and censorship.” Also, “since the coup, Honduras’s military and police have routinely killed civilians.”
In addition, the scholars explain that “while some human rights groups have criticized the Chávez government, Venezuela has had no pattern of state security forces murdering civilians, as is the case in Honduras.”
Over the past 14 years, they say, 18 elections have been carried out in Venezuela, which have been deemed free and fair by leading international authorities.
“Jimmy Carter praised Venezuela’s elections, among the 92 the Carter Center has monitored, as having ‘a very wonderful voting system.’ He concluded that ‘the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world’.”
The petition has been made due to a column released by the NYT editor last April, in which she said that “although individual words and phrases may not amount to very much in the great flow produced each day, language matters. When news organizations accept the government’s way of speaking, they seem to accept the government’s way of thinking. In The Times, these decisions carry even more weight.”
In this connection, the US scholars request coherence between her speech and the Times’s coverage of certain topics.
“We urge you to examine this disparity in coverage and language use, particularly as it may appear to your readers to track all too closely the U.S. government’s positions regarding the Honduran government (which it supports) and the Venezuelan government (which it opposes)—precisely the syndrome you describe and warn against in your column” the scholars say in the letter.
15 mayo, 2013 http://www.sibci.gob.ve