Chavez's Media Crackdown

Is it time to reevaluate the world's relationship to Venezuela?

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has drawn worldwide attention by closing 34 radio stations and considering a law that would punish "media crimes" with up to four years in prison. The law would target media members who "harm the interests of the state," "cause panic," or "disturb social peace." Close observers of foreign affairs evaluated what this should mean for Venezuela's relationship to the rest of the world.

End Liberal Chavez Worship  Denis MacShane of the Guardian argued that Britain should "admit that its uncritical admiration for Chávez has passed its use-by date." Since Chavez has proven himself "a demagogue," MacShane said that Britain should support Chile's social democracy instead. In Washington, Reason's Michael C. Moynihan chided Americans like Jesse Jackson and Gore Vidal for urging leniency towards Venezuela. "It is worth reiterating what should be (but isn't) obvious to Chavez's Western sycophants: Venezuela is no longer a democracy, despite Chavez's victories at the ballot box," he stated.

Venezuela Still Freer Than America  That's what Marc Weisbrot, also the Guardian, contended. Though condemning Chavez's media crimes law, he maintained that "there is a much more oppositional media in Venezuela than in the US, and a much greater range of debate in the major media." Weisbrot explained that "the vast majority of the media in Venezuela is still controlled by the rightwing opposition" and behave as "political actors" which sometimes suggest, among other things, that Chavez should be lynched. "Its media routinely broadcasts reporting and commentary that would not be allowed under FCC rules in the US," he wrote. If American media were as free as Venezuela's, he concludes, Americans would only know hear the right-wing perspectives and "Barack Obama could never have been elected president."

Don't Get Any Ideas, Obama. Powerline's John Hinderaker wondered how "American leftists" would take the news. "I suspect that a lot of them would like to enact similar measures here," he wrote. " That's what the 'fairness doctrine' is all about."

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