Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Venezuelan Media Ignores Protests

At WSJ, "Venezuela Media Largely Ignored Protests: Free-Speech Advocates Say Black Out Points to State Intimidation (via Google):

CARACAS—As some of the biggest anti-government protests in months gathered momentum across the country earlier this week, Venezuela's largest private television networks largely broadcast soap operas and entertainment shows.

When the demonstrations turned violent in Caracas and three people died, the coverage was largely blacked out, press-freedom organizations and journalists said Friday. Government officials appeared on state television to accuse opposition leaders of instigating violence to topple the state.

One private television station offering live coverage, NTN24, based in Colombia but widely seen on cable here, was taken off the air in the midst of covering the bedlam on Wednesday. President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday explained that the plug was pulled "to defend the right to tranquility, and no one is going to come here from abroad to ruffle the psychological condition of Venezuela."

Some TV networks, among them Televen and Venevision, did offer reports later in the day. But many locals said they turned to social media during the day to fill the void and remain informed. Officials at Televen and Venevision didn't return calls seeking comment.

Free-speech advocates say that the lack of news coverage demonstrates that privately owned media outlets, particularly the country's biggest TV networks, are being intimidated by the state. Restrictions on what can be covered, coupled with the recent purchases of once-critical news outlets by buyers allied with the government, have resulted in coverage either friendly to Mr. Maduro or indifferent to his governing style, said Marianela Balbi, director of the Press and Society Institute of Venezuela, a press freedom group.

"We think that day was a point of no return for the press," said Ms. Balbi. "Quite simply what happened was that there was no information about the violence, no video images, no live coverage when this was happening in other cities, when people were being hurt, killed."