On February 15, 2017 CCN en Español (CNNE) television station was taken off the air in Venezuela. Without missing a beat, mainstream Western media condemned the government of Venezuela and the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro for this action. In their reporting, these same media sources completely brushed-aside Venezuela’s sovereignty, excluding any references to the laws and regulations in Venezuela that governed the decision to take CNNE off the air.
Why was CNN Taken Off the Air in Venezuela?
In simple form, CCN en Español (CNNE) was sanctioned and taken off the air in Venezuela because they broke Venezuelan Law.
In Venezuela there is a regulatory body that governs radio and television broadcasts, called the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL). Outside of functions such as regulating children’s programming, or determining hours of adult content, this body enforces the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Electronic Media, which was passed by Venezuela’s National Assembly in 2004. This law requires that media outlets "promote social justice and further the development of the citizenry, democracy, peace, human rights, education, culture, public health, and the nation’s social and economic development” with their programming.
To better understand the intentions of the Law, which CNNE broke, it is useful to here it explained from a Venezuelan perspective. In 2011, Venezuela’s Ministry of Communication and Information did an interview with Venezuela Analysis. When asked to explain the modifications to the Law made in 2010, they stated “Concretely, the law provides for sanctions against those who use the Internet to incite hate, criminal activity, war propaganda, alterations in public order, homicide; or advocate to disobey constitutional authority.” The Law has the same intention when applied to television and radio.
It is CONATEL that ordered CNN en Español to be put under administrative restrictions and removed from Venezuelan cable and satellite news channels for violating this Law. As CONATEL stated “This decision is the result of content that CNN en Español has been systematically and repeatedly disseminating… Content that [could constitute] direct attacks that threaten the peace and democratic stability of our Venezuelan people…”
What Does CNN en Español Say?
In response to the actions of CONATEL, CNNE released a statement claiming their innocence and stating that "CNN stands by our network's reporting and our commitment to truth and transparency."
So, what is the “truth” and “transparency” when it comes to the reporting of CNNE?
One does not have to look too far back to see the lies and manipulations in CCN’s statement. At the beginning of February, 2017 CCN en Español aired a report called “Passports in the Shadows,” (titled “Pasaportes en la Sombra” in Spanish) which also aired on CCN’s English network. Among other accusations, this report claimed that the Venezuelan Embassy in Iraq, as well as identification and passport offices in Venezuela, have been issuing passports, visas and Venezuelan identification to members of terrorist organizations. The report even goes as far as to claim that they have received a “confidential intelligence report from the region” that implicated Venezuela’s new Vice President Tareck El Aissami, with issuing “173 Venezuelan passports and IDs issued to individuals from the Middle East, including people connected to the terrorist group Hezbollah.”
“Passports in the Shadows” was based on the word of three main “witnesses.” One was Misael Lopez, a former official at the Venezuelan Embassy in Iraq who now lives in Spain. As reported by Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, Lopez has been charged with sexual harassment, identity theft and unauthorized travel related to his work as a representative of Venezuela in Iraq. Photos have also proven that Lopez has close ties to Venezuela’s counter-revolutionary opposition. CNNE did not include this important information about their star witness in any of their reports.
Their other “witness” was Marco Ferreira, a Venezuelan now living in Miami in the United States. Ferreira left Venezuela after he was implicated in the 2002 coup against the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
CCNE also centered their report on an interview with Roger Noriega, a long-time agent of U.S. imperialism in Latin America and proponent of U.S. regime change programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. Among other infamous credentials, Noriega was the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric affairs under George W. Bush when the U.S./Canada and France overthrew the democratically elected President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Noriega’s comments about Venezuela were a thinly veiled call for intervention in Venezuela, “If we do not get our arms around this problem, people are going to die, our facilities are going to be attacked by networks abetted by the Venezuelans...the passports are a critical part of this. They are literally their ticket into the hemisphere.”
This year was not the first time that CCN en Español has been implicated in the fomentation of violence and unrest in Venezuela. In 2015, the CONATEL launched investigations into CNNE for their false reporting of violence in Venezuela. In reply, CNNE blamed the lies on human error and mistakes.
Increasing U.S. Attacks on Venezuela
Major media would like people to believe that the “information” uncovered in the “Passports in the Shadows” report is the reason that CCNE was taken off the air. However, considering this report in the context of the political situation around the world, it is clear that the role of CCNE goes much deeper than one piece of so-called investigative journalism.
It is no coincidence that CNNE’s report and provocations against the government and sovereignty of Venezuela come at a time of increasing U.S. threats of against the Bolivarian Revolution. At a time of increased U.S. wars and occupations and in the name of the so-called “War on Terror,” this is also a very dangerous attack. By attempting to tie the Venezuelan government to “terrorist groups,” they are encouraging U.S. and international imperialist intervention.
These attacks, supported by mainstream Western media, have especially come against Venezuela’s new Vice President, Tareck El Aissami, who was appointed Vice President in January, 2017. In seemingly perfect coordination, the CNNE report which tied Tareck El Aissami to U.S. declared terrorist organizations came only days before the U.S. Department of Treasury issued sanctions against him on February 13, 2017, claiming him to be a “specially designated drug trafficker.” Tareck El Aissami has responded to these unfounded allegations in a letter to the head of the U.S. Treasury, originally published as an advertisement in the New York Times, which also appears in this issue of Fire This Time)
These latest escalated attacks on Venezuela’s Vice President are also in-line with a February 8, 2017 letter from 34 U.S. members of Congress to President Trump. This inflammatory letter calls for sanctions against Venezuelan government officials as well as increasing funding for "pro-democracy" programs in Venezuela. It is no surprise that this letter was spear-headed by reactionary Cuban-American Senators Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Robert Menendez, who are strong promoters of U.S. intervention and regime change programs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
It is no surprise that the U.S. State Department has also joined in these increasing attacks against Venezuela. With a statement released on Saturday, February 18 titled “Venezuela: Political Prisoners Should Be Released Immediately,” they declared that “We call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience, respect for the rule of law, the freedom of the press, the separation of constitutional powers within the government, and the restoration of a democratic process that reflects the will of the Venezuelan people.” The record of U.S. intervention around the world from Iraq and Libya to Somalia and Syria has shown us the real meaning of U.S. calls for “democracy” and “rule of law.” They are nothing but code words for U.S.-led wars and occupations and intervention.
Media and the Bolivarian Revolution
Media attacks against Venezuela are nothing new; in fact the mainstream media is one of the main tools used by the U.S. and their allies against the government of Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution since Comandante Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998. International capitalist media, privately owned media in Venezuela and finally, civil society and press organizations directly funded through the United States have all worked together to try and create dissent and destabilization in Venezuela.
Through lies and manipulations, media outlets like CNN en Español work to foment fear, anxiety and division among the people of Venezuela and promote foreign intervention. In this work they are hand-in-hand with the U.S. government and the counter-revolutionary opposition in Venezuela in their attempt to overthrow Nicolas Maduro and overturn the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution.
As President Maduro stated on his “Sundays with Maduro” television program on February 9, “They are going to open the door to a criminal intervention by the Empire, to ask for intervention, and that is a crime in any country, an affront to the Constitution is treason to the Homeland.”
Solidarity with Venezuela: Now More Than Ever Before!
In response to these latest attacks, the people of Venezuela are continuing to stand in defense of the Bolivarian revolution. They continue organizing and mobilizing on the streets of Venezuela, as well as working to build community and grassroots media to combat the control of privately owned media in Venezuela.
From Canada and the U.S. it is especially important that we stand in solidarity with the people of Venezuela as they fight to defend the tremendous gains of their revolution. We must demand an end to U.S. intervention in Venezuela, and also stand with the right of Venezuela to their sovereignty and self-determination. Who is CCN en Español, the New York Times, or any capitalist media outlet to define what gets played on the Venezuela airwaves! Let the people of Venezuela and their Bolivarian Revolution decide!
Follow Alison Bodine on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
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