May 28, 2007

News Never Sleeps, But Old Media Does (Blogs and Others Are Running Circles Around Old Media in Venezuela Coverage, Accuracy)

Hugo Chavez is simultaneously acting as Bull Connor (fire hoses/water cannons) and Gustav Husak (deploying tanks against his own people), yet what little Old Media coverage there is seems to want to avoid those elements of the story.

At 11:00 a.m. Sunday, Gateway Pundit blogged (and did an update post at 7:43 p.m. last night) on Venezuela’s virtual dictator sending in tanks to intimidate opponents demonstrating against a government-planned closure of one of the country’s last independent TV outlets. An underlying post at Publius Pundit that GP linked to shows the tanks in place, and has a time stamp of 2:09 a.m.

The Jungle Hut reported (scroll down) at what appeared to be midnight on May 27 that:

12:oo UPDATE: It is done! the RCTV emblem is gone! Now we see the new television social emblem! TVes.

UPDATE: All media is warned not to refer to this as a closure of RCTV, but rather that their concession (liscense) has not been re-newed.

In Globovision pics eerily reminiscent of the fire hoses turned on Birmingham, Alabama demonstrators in 1963 (second paragraph at link), it appears that water cannons are being used against demonstrators (an AP report discussed below confirms this).

Voice of America mentioned the tanks in a story that carries a date of May 26 at Google News but is currently dated May 27 at VOA. The context clearly indicates that the article was originally written, and the tank deployment occurred, on Saturday:

Venezuelan army tanks and security forces deployed across the capital and other cities ahead of the protests, which are expected to continue Sunday.

Yet the South American bureau of the Houston Chronicle, in a report dated May 26 at 9:54 p.m., fails to mention the tanks. Co-authors John Otis and Jose Orozco also saw fit to tell us that “Although Chavez remains wildly popular, revoking RCTV’s license has been one of the most unpopular moves of his presidency.”

New York Times searches on “Venezuela tank” and “Venezuela tanks” (not in quotes in both cases) show no current results. A May 26 Times article on the impending station closure by Simon Romero, carried in May 27′s newspaper, makes no mention of military deployment, and can only be described as bending over backwards to make Chavez look reasonable.

Google News searches done at about 9:30 AM ET on “Venezuela tank” and “Venezuela tanks” (not in quotes in both cases) turn up no other items besides those just discussed.

In a report caught by Drudge, Reuters managed to report last night that “Venezuelan troops have seized an anti-government television channel’s broadcast equipment.” It did refer to “a show of military force meant to deter possible violence by opposition demonstrators,” but didn’t mention the tanks or the tactics used on demonstrators.

The progression of the three most recent Associated Press dispatches as of 10:00 a.m ET, the first two by Ian James and the third by Christopher Toothaker (here, here, and here; saved for posterity, and of course fair use and discussion purposes, here, here, and here), is interesting indeed. The first consists of only two paragraphs, and its second paragraph appears to be nearly celebratory:

Venezuela’s oldest private television station went off the air at midnight Sunday as thousands banged on pots and pans in protest against President Hugo Chavez’s decision not to renew the license of the opposition-aligned channel.

Fireworks exploded across Caracas as crowds of Chavez’s supporters celebrated the expiration of Radio Caracas Television’s license and the birth of a new public service station that was created to replace it.

The second and third reports mention that “police” used “a water cannon and tear gas” to break up “one opposition protest” (referred to oddly in what may be a Freudian slip as “one opposition protests” in the third report), and never use the word “military” or “tank.”

Someone please remind me of why we’re supposed to rely on Old Media outlets to stay informed.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: This YouTube vid (HT BoingBoing via Instapundit) clearly validates the comparison to Birmingham 1963.

UPDATE 2: A more balanced BBC report (“Rallies as Venezuelan TV closes”) notes the water cannon and tear gas, and the oft-overlooked fact that Chavez has “the power to rule by decree.”

UPDATE 3: A revised AP report from about 11:15 a.m., mostly containing what was in the third AP report discussed above, is here. Still no mention of tanks.

UPDATE 4, 11 PM: Now Globovision is getting the shutdown threats.

UPDATE 5, May 29: Michael Moore (“The media is far freer in Venezuela than it is here in the US”) was unavailable for comment (HT Old Controller).

UPDATE 6, May 30: Troops have attacked students with rubber bullets. Video is at the link.

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