A decade o propaganda?BBC reporting o Venezuela
esearchers at the University o the West o Englandhave exposed ongoing and systematic bias in the BBC’snews reporting on Venezuela.Dr Lee Salter and Dr Dave Weltman analysed 10 years oBBC reports on Venezuela since the rst election o HugoChávez to the presidency in an ongoing research project andtheir ndings so ar show that the BBC’s reporting alls shorto its legal commitment to impartiality, truth and accuracy.The researchers looked at 304 BBC reports published be-tween 1998 and 2008 and ound that only 3 o those articlesmentioned any o the positive policies introduced by Chavez.The BBC has ailed to report adequately on any o thedemocratic initiatives, human rights legislation, ood pro-grammes, healthcare initiatives, or poverty reductionprogrammes. Mission Robinson, the greatest literacy pro-gramme in human history, received only a passing mention.According to the research, the BBC seems never to have ac-cepted the legitimacy o the president, insinuating throughoutthe sample that Chavez lacks electoral support and at one pointcomparing him to Hitler (“Venezuela’s Dictatorship” 31/08/99).This undermining o Chavez must be understood in thecontext o his electoral record — his legitimacy is questioneddespite the act that he has been elected several times withbetween 56 per cent and 60 per cent o the vote.O particular note is the BBC’s response to the military coupin 2002. BBC News published nine articles on the coup on April12 2002, all o which were based on the coup leaders’ version oevents, who were, alongside the “opposition,” championed assaviours o the nation. Although BBC News did report the coup,the only time it mentioned the word “coup” was as an allegationo government ocials and o Chavez’s daughter.The ocial BBC explanation was that Chavez “ell,” “quit,”or “resigned” (at best at the behest o the military) ater his“mishandling” o “strikes” (management lockouts) and demosin which his supporters had red on and killed protestors.In “Venezuelan media: ‘It’s over!’” the BBC allowed the editoro El Universal to declare: “We have returned once again to de-mocracy!” Perhaps more signicantly, in “Venezuela’s politicaldisarray” the BBC Americas regional editor chose to title a sub-heading “Restoring democracy.” “Oil prices all as Chavez quits”explains that Chavez quit as a result o a “popular uprising.”Crucially, all o the vox pops used in the nine articles were romopposition supporters and the only voices in support o Chavezwere rom government ocials, Chavez’s daughter or Cuba.It is thereore reasonable to iner rom BBC reports that ordi-nary Venezuelans did not support Chavez — while the coup wasinaccurately reported as “popular,” the counter-coup was not.Venezuelans are painted as mindless sheep led by a Pied Pipergure, responding only to his call or them to agitate. In the BBC’sworld, social and political “divisions” exist because o Chavez.For the BBC, the only legitimate representatives o Venezue-lan appear to be the unelected oligarchs behind the “opposition.”It is the “opposition” that is Venezuela. “Opposition leaders inVenezuela,” according to the BBC, appeal “to the internationalcommunity to intervene to protect democratic rule.”When democracy was “restored” by a military coup and the im-position o a dictator, the BBC reported that “Venezuela has lookednot to an existing politician, but to the head o the business lead-ers’ association.” When a majority o Venezuelans elect Chavez itis not an act o Venezuela, yet when a CIA-backed military coupimposes a corrupt oligarchy, it refects the will o the whole oVenezuela — not the will o an elite class, but o Venezuela itsel.There is an argument that the inaccuracy and bias o theBBC’s reporting results rom the experience o BBC journal-ists, themselves being rom a particular class backgroundliving in well-to-do parts o Caracas. From this point o view,they simply don’t see the reality o the situation.I so, it would conrm the claim that we tend to be giv-en “the perspective o an international correspondent whoworks in a downtown oce building o an opposition newspa-per and lives in an apartment in a wealthy neighborhood.”The big question, however, is whether the BBC can betrusted to report adequately on Latin America. Certainlyrom their latest reports on Evo Morales’s recent victory inBolivia it seems unlikely. In the meantime, their audienceremains woeully ill-inormed.
For further information contact Lee Salter firstname.lastname@example.org
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Chávez announces currency devaluation
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced a devaluation othe ofcial exchange rate o the bolivar currency and the creationo a second rate denominated the “oil bolivar” or non-essentialimports, in a nationally televised address on January 8.The bolivar would be devalued rom 2.15 per dollar to 2.6 per dollar,while the “oil bolivar” will be pegged at 4.3 per dollar. The measurerepresents a 17 per cent and 50 per cent devaluation respectively.The Venezuelan government moved to regulate oreign cur-rency exchange in 2003 ater a two month long bosses lockoutin the oil industry aimed at ousting the democratically electedChavez rom power caused an estimated $20 billion damage tothe economy. The latest devaluation is the frst since an 11 percent devaluation in March 2005.The devaluation is aimed at revitalising the economy andstrengthening national development ater the country experienceda 2.9 per cent contraction in 2009 due predominantly to lower oilprices resulting rom the global economic crisis, he explained.
Ministry’s measures to curb energy useElectrical contract ‘a victory for workers’
The signing o a single collective contract or the electricity sectormarks “the way orward or workers,” said Angel Navas, presidento the Federation o Electrical Workers (Fetraelec), last month.With its legalisation ater one year and six months o struggle byworkers and their ederation, the new single collective contract notonly represents the equalisation o benefts and conditions o workers,but an important step or the participation o workers and organisedpeople in the management o the company and a blow to the entrenchedbureaucracy in state-owned electricity company Corpoelec.“It’s a total victory or the workers. That’s why yesterday, whenwe held workers’ assemblies at a national level, there was an airo triumph, joy, victory,” Navas said.One historic achievement o the contract is Clause 1, “which al-lows or the liberation o the worker,” Navas explained. Clause 1,which reers to the direct participation o workers and people inthe management o the company, “sets the axis, the strategic lines,rom the standpoint o the working class, o how a socialist enter-prise should be, what the model o production relations should be, sothat workers participate in the management and decision making.”
New mission to lower infant mortality
Following months o regularblackouts in some regions, thegovernment has implementedenergy-saving measures, re-quiring companies to submitplans to save 20 per cent o theirelectricity usage, regulating theusage o lighting or advertisingand creating schedules o elec-tricity usage or shopping cen-tres, casinos and bingo halls.The Ministry or Electricity’smeasures went into eect on De-cember 21 and the state-ownedcorporation is charged with im-plementing them.“We’re going to appointsome inspectors and generatea whole process o inspectionand accountability so that allthe various sectors complywith this saving plan,” saidminister Angel Rodriguez.He said the measures wereneeded because drought had a-ected dam levels and hydroelec-tric power is the main source oenergy or the country. He add-ed there was a need to use elec-tricity more efciently as con-sumption was 14 per cent higherthan the regional average.Just beore Christmas, the gov-ernment launched its latest socialprogramme. Called Mission BabyJesus, it aims to provide betterattention to women giving birthby improving hospital inrastruc-ture, increasing the availability omedicine, providing health educa-tion or pregnant women and bybuilding prenatal care houses.It also aims to promote healthynutrition or women, especiallypregnant women, and reduce ma-ternal and inant mortality andencourage and increase breasteeding. It will also ocus on thehealth o children under 5 yearsold including preventative healthcare and detecting any mental orphysical health disabilities.President Chavez said that, be-ore he was elected in 1998, theaverage inant mortality rate asa percentage o total deaths ochildren under fve was 26.72 percent. By 2007, it had dropped to16.7 per cent, but he said the aimwas to bring it below 10 per cent.