Jul
01
2002

Spotlighting (Some) Venezuela Killings

Deaths during pro-Chavez protests don't interest New York Times

If you followed mainstream U.S. news coverage of the recent coup in Venezuela, you probably know that people were killed during the April 11 demonstrations against President Hugo Chavez. You also heard those killings cited as a justification for removing Chavez from office. But if you relied on the New York Times for news, you might have missed the fact that even more people were killed on the coup regime's watch—during the pro-Chavez protests that led to Chavez's April 14 return to power. The Associated Press (4/14/02) reported 40 confirmed deaths over the course of the coup, with 16 of […]

Jun
01
2002

U.S. Papers Hail Venezuelan Coup as Pro-Democracy Move

When elements of the Venezuelan military forced President Hugo Chávez from office in April, the editorial boards of several major U.S. newspapers, following the U.S. government's lead, greeted the news with enthusiasm. In an April 13 editorial, the New York Times triumphantly declared that Chávez's "resignation" meant that "Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator." Conspicuously avoiding the word "coup," the Times explained that Chávez "stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader." Calling Chávez "a ruinous demagogue," the Times offered numerous criticisms of his policies and urged speedy new elections, […]

Apr
01
2001

New York Times Changes Take on Colombian Death Squads

Extra! Update April 2004

In January, the already bleak human rights situation in Colombia was reported to be in a state of "alarming degradation," according to United Nations human rights observers (Associated Press, 1/20/01). A joint report from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Washington Office on Latin America ("Colombia Human Rights Certification II," 1/01) found that "political violence has marked­ly increased" since the first installment of the U.S.'s $1.3 billion Plan Colombia aid package was dispersed in August. There were 26 massacres in the first half of January alone, claiming the lives of perhaps 170 people (Associated Press, 1/20/01). The killings were […]

Feb
01
2001

Our Man in Bolivia

AP correspondent resigns amid major conflicts

The Associated Press' long-time Bolivia correspondent, Peter McFarren, resigned late last year after his extensive involvement in Bolivian politics was revealed. What is still unclear, however, is why AP allowed someone with so many conflicts of interest to be a correspondent in the first place. The Internet-based Narco News Bulletin (10/6/00) was the first to reveal that McFarren personally lobbied the Bolivian legislature in September 2000 on behalf of a corporate water project. Some of the profits from the Bolivian Hydro-Resources Corporation’s $78 million project would go to a foundation created and presided over by McFarren. Narco News called McFarren, […]

May
01
1999

On Guatemala, 'The Press Has Blood on Its Hands'

An interview with Allan Nairn

Allan Nairn--Photo Credit: Democracy Now!

More than 200,000 Guatemalan civilians were killed or disap­peared during 36 years of civil war ending in 1996, according to a report from the Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission released in February. The nine-volume, 3,500-page report found that U.S. assistance was a key factor in human rights violations during the armed conflict. Yet Guatemala's human rights ordeal has been almost invisible in U.S. press coverage. FAIR'S CounterSpin (3/4/99) talked about press coverage of the report and of Guatemala with Allan Nairn, who reported extensively from that country in the early 1980s—a period, according to the report, when the Guatemalan government was […]

Jan
01
1990

'Noriega Offered His Usual Damp, Limp Handshake to Bush's Firm Grip'

For sheer propaganda, high marks go to Newsweek's Noriega cover story (1/15/90), featuring excerpts from a book about Noriega by Wall Street Journal reporter Frederick Kempe. The book and its author were much touted by the media during the invasion. Some highlights: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ELLIOTT ABRAMS. "By the summer of 1985, the State Department's new assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs, Elliott Abrams, began to believe that Noriega's help for the Contras was overestimated and his general harm to democracy and human rights was underestimated. Abrams had come out of State's human rights office...." Abrams hardly "came […]

Jan
01
1990

Swallowing Hokum in Central America

During the height of the civil rights movement, Southern authorities frequently reacted to the bombing of a black church or a civil rights leader's home by blaming the act on the Movement: "The Negroes did it themselves. It's a stunt to win sympathy." While the innuendo that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have fire-bombed his own home while his children slept was prominently and uncritically reported in Southern dailies, journalists from national media ignored such hokum or reported it as a way of highlighting how depraved or dishonest the authorities were. Ironically, the same absurd scenarios dismissed by journalists when […]

Jul
01
1989

Labor Abuses in El Salvador and Nicaragua

A Study of New York Times Coverage

Press coverage of human rights in El Salvador and Nicaragua provides an excel­lent test of journalistic integrity. This is because the US government has staked clear positions: supporting the Salvadoran regime and playing down its less savory qualities; opposing and denigrating the Nicaraguan government while trying to portray the US-organized contras as "free­dom fighters." The test is strengthened by the fact that human rights abuses by the Nicaraguan government are modest when compared with those of the government of El Salvador or the contras, as has been regularly documented by organizations like Amnesty International and Americas Watch. After the Central […]