By Arturo Rosales reports from Caracas. Axis of Logic
Globovision, the right wing opposition news channel which has made a career out of opposing and lying about the Chavez government in Venezuela paid a Bs.F.9.4 million (US$2.19 million) fine today (June 29th) to the Venezuelan equivalent of the FCC called Conatel. The fine was equivalent to 7.5% of Globovision’s declared 2009 income to the tax authorities.
The fine was due to be paid on January 1st 2012 but Globovision continued to object using various legal maneuvers. Yesterday the Supreme Court intervened and issued a ruling embargoing almost Bs.F. 25 million (US$5.81 million) of Globovision’s assets and scared the channel into paying.
The original fine was imposed on June 30th 2010 for the channel’s coverage of a prison riot in which they:
- Manipulated images and the sound track of the riot;
- Instigated chaos and disrupted public order;
- Refused to recognize the rule of law and
- Stirred up hatred and panic among the families of prisoners gathered outside the prison.
The sound track manipulation was created by Globvision after their reporters stated that gunshots were heard coming from inside the prison and then Globovision inserted the sound of machine gun for good measure to give the impression that the rioters were being mowed down by the National Guard. The families of the prisoners were panic-stricken and many others were appalled that the government would do this. As if this were not bad enough, these scenes were shown 269 times on this channel during the days of the riot..
The objective was to manipulate public opinion against the government. A routine tactic used by the private media in Venezuela is to turn the perpetrators into the victims and morally punish the victims themselves. It is The Upside Down World of Eduardo Galeano. This is precisely what the private media has been doing for almost two years in the case of the fine imposed on Globovision. They ignored the crime committed and only concentrated on the punishment (the size of the fine) and depicted the ruling as a violation or threat to freedom of speech.
So that readers from the English speaking world understand what Globovision has been doing in the last four years (since late 2008), we will present a chronological summary of the infractions committed against the broadcast laws of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Many of these procedures are continue today and this is only the tail end of a long list that started when Globvision divided the TV screen during a Presidential broadcast on April 11th 2002 during the failed coup d’état led by the media. The author witnessed this broadcast crime being committed more than ten years ago as did millions of other Venezuelans. No legal action was taken in that case.
The source and description of these infractions is the Venezuelan National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel).
- October 16th 2008 – incitement to commit crime and destabilize public order which could prejudice national security. In an opinion given on the political talk show, Hello Citizen, on October 13th 2008by Rafael Poleo, editor of the daily newspaper El Nuevo País. stated that if President Chavez did not “change his ways” he would be strung up upside down like Mussolini.
Legal basis: Article 17 of the Telecommunications Law.
- November 28th 2008 – incitement to disturb public order by broadcasting declarations on November 24th 2008 by the governor elect of Carabobo state, Enrique Fernando Salas Feo, following the electoral process of November 23rd. Salas Feo called on the population to go and illegally take the Regional Electoral office of Carabobo state to force them to declare his victory in the elections. Globovision let this incitement run for seven minutes with no interruptions.
Legal basis: Violation of Article 29, Paragraph 1, of the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television.
- May 7th 2009 – transmission in the small hours of May 4th 2009, from early morning throughout the whole day in a continuous and reiterative manner, of messages concerning the earthquake that had just taken place in Venezuela. The broadcast could have generated alarm, fear, disturbances or panic in the population.
Legal basis: Violation of Article 29, part 1, of the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television.
- June 16th 2009 – a call for nonpayment of taxes for institutional messages transmitted by Globovision during the December 2002 to January 2003 civic strike.
Legal basis: Article 171 of the Telecommunications Law of 2000.
- July 4th 2009 – Transmission of commercials with messages defending private property and sent out anonymously by organizations later identified as Asoesfuerzo and Cedice – two opposition organizations openly supporting capitalist practices. (You cannot broadcast anonymous messages in Venezuela).
Legal basis: Violation of Article 29 of the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television. The decision was immediately accompanied by an injunction suspending the transmission of these anonymous messages.
- September 5th 2009 – Instigation to assassinate the President of the Republic and to carry out a coup d’état promoted by text messages allegedly sent by viewers which appeared at the foot of the TV screen during the program Buenas Noches.
Legal basis: Violation of Articles 7, 27 and 29 of the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Electronic Media.
- June 30th 2010 – incitement to commit crime, incitement not to recognize the rule of law, public order offenses, causing panic and incitement to hatred. Repetition of 18 hysterical and desperate declarations of prisoners’ families which were recorded during the events that took place during the prison riot at Rodeo I and II. These declarations were repeated 269 times and included videos with a background sound track that did not correspond to the original audio. Sounds of machine gun fire were used in this case to terrify families watching the broadcast.
Legal basis: Violation of Articles 28 and 29 of the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Electronic Media. Fine imposed of almost Bs.F. 9.4 million (US$2.19 million) equivalent to 7.5% of last turnover figures of Globovision presented to the tax authorities.
Today in an interview on an internet radio station, Dr. German Saltron, Venezuela’s legal representative before all Global Human Rights Bodies, stated that Globovision had refused to understand that they were responsible for their broadcasts. In Venezuela people can say what they want within the confines of the existing laws and if they step outside that they must face the consequences. The example of such restrictions on free speech, often cited in the United States, is the law against shouting Fire! in a crowded movie theatre.
Globovision always paints itself as the victim and the government as the villain wanting to silence Globovision’s opinions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Calling for coups, assassinations, public order offenses and incitement to criminal activity, rioting and hatred have nothing to do with freedom of speech. This is simply delinquent behavior and must be treated as such. On the other hand anyone and any media in Venezuela is free to criticize any government policy.
The 1999 Constitution states in Article 57 that there is complete freedom of speech in Venezuela but that people must accept responsibility for what they say. Article 58 states that the public has the right to “opportune, true and impartial information” and not manipulations or lies designed to overthrow the government. Laws have been framed to enact these constitutional precepts but Globovision does not want to accept them since the overriding reason for its existence is not only to oppose but to contribute to the demise of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Saltron stated at the end of the interview that Globovision would have to change its ways or it could vanish from the airwaves when its concession expires in about two years. At the time of expiration, the government could deny renewal as it did with RCTV in May 2007.
As I finish writing this article I am watching Globovision continuing to declare that the fine was ordered to “shut it up” and that the Supreme Court Ruling delivered yesterday was a strategy to intimidate the channel as the presidential electoral campaign is about to begin on Sunday. It's interesting that the last day Globovision had to pay this fine was today, June 29th 2012, two years after it was imposed on June 30th 2010.
It is advisable for one’s mental health to switch channels and forget this ongoing hysterical and manipulated disinformation campaign which can only get worse, as the presidential elections approach on October 7th.
One final question – Would the FCC in the US or OFCOM in the UK or the Australian Broadcasting Commission have allowed "a Globovision" in their country to continue broadcasting on the public airwaves…..or even be on cable or satellite for that matter? We welcome your answers in the Readers' Comment section below this article.
The author thanks Miguel Angel Perez Pirela of VTV and the Venezuela web site Noticias24 for much of this information.
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