Friday, January 19, 2007

Selective Justice

In the run-up to the war in Iraq, a conservative coworker handed me the part of the British Dossier on Iraq that focused on human rights abuses under Saddam Hussein - a report that relied heavily on Amnesty International [AI] and Human Rights Watch [HRW] reports. I read it out of respect for the friendly but serious disagreements we were having about the coming war. I recall thinking to myself, "Yes, you'll use AI and HRW reports now, but I bet you're not so keen on them when they challenge allies of the US or the US itself."

I had a similar reaction this morning as NPR took up the cause of press freedom. The focus was on - guess what country? - Venezuela...what a surprise! The shadowy Juan Forero was reporting on Chavez government's plans to shut down a major opposition television channel, RCTV. I have to agree that I strongly oppose such a move - it seems dangerously arbitrary (see this report from Reporters without Borders).

In Forero's report he talked to Carlos Lauria, an Argentine journalist and representative of the respected organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists that has criticized the moves of the Chavez government. And this is where my concerns with NPR's coverage come in. Why focus on Venezuela? Is is just because it is the enemy de jour of the Bush administration? Will NPR give as much coverage to other serious press issues that the Committe to Protect Journalists has raised such as US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, or the actions of US allies such as Pakistan or Israel? I'm not holding my breath, besides covering those stories wouldn't allow Forero the chance to air such a "substantive" quote as this one from Chavez opponent, Americo Martin:
  • "We can’t say that Chavez is a Hitler, that would be an exaggeration, but we’re headed that way....this regime…it’s on the way to becoming a totalitarian system."
Couldn't make this up if I tried!


Norman said...

Just a quick response to a question that was probably rhetorical. You ask "Why focus on Venezuela?" I expect it would have to do with Mr. Chazez screaming for US media attention, foremost through his theatrics at the UN but also in his recent weekly radio address where was quoted as calling: "Gringos go to Hell!" Let's just say that he is topical. It's rare that you have an opponent who goes out of his way to demonize himself in the eyes of the US public. Chavez is one of those opponents. He's newsworthy.

Anonymous said...

"newsworthy", granted. But journalism is supposed to have an aspect of investigation and uncovering of concerns other than those that can just be cherry-picked as safe choices.