As usual Francisco Toro does an excellent job in describing the reaction of the international press to recent events in Venezuela. Particularly interesting is his news that a different reporter will arrive to replace the sloppy reporting of Juan Forero of the NYT:
The Full Mugabe
Thereís one positive side to this whole Carlos FernŠndez incarceration hubbub: the foreign press is finally taking the gloves off. After months of not quite knowing how to deal with the crisis, of not being entirely sure whether to treat ChŠvez like a normal democratic president or an autocrat, the FernŠndez episode seems to have tipped the scales. Itís the Mugabization of Hugo ChŠvez in the court of world public opinion. Itís still far from complete, but now itís definitely on the way.
Consider this remarkable story by Scott Wilson in the Washington Post. Iíve been friends with Scott for a long time and consider him one of the best journalists around. I understand the pressure heís under Ė both from his editors and his personal sense of journalistic ethics Ė not to write any further than the facts will allow. Whatever, intimately, he might have thought or felt about ChŠvez, for a long time the facts were just too nebulous and contradictory for him to give ChŠvez the full Mugabe treatment. I had the feeling he understood, at a gut level, how dangerous ChŠvez was. But Scott doesnít draw a paycheck to tell the world how his gut is feeling Ė his job is to tell the world what happened. And it hadnít happened, yet.
Now itís happened, and his treatment in the Post is absolutely brutal. Iíve never seen the government take it this hard in a reputable foreign news story before. I think a lot of foreign journalists were, in a sense, waiting for a big stink-up to pounce Ė and now the stink-up is here, the government’s heavy autocratic character is in plain for all to see, and the pouncing has started.
Reuter’s is just as harsh as the Post – they played that papaya quote for all its worth – and AP is just acerbic Ė I canít think of a lead anywhere near as biting as this one in any AP story I’ve ever read out of Venezuela. The NYT is flying in David GonzŠlez tonight, and while I only know him superficially, heís a fantastically talented reporter and can be expected to write some good stuff.
Is it the Full Mugabe yet? Not quite. But the treatment ChŠvez is getting now is far, far closer to it. My fear is that heíll use the international media blackout that will come with the start of the war on Iraq for cover Ė people will be very nervous here the day the war starts. Specifically, itís easy to foresee that heíll move against the independent TV stations within minutes of the start of the war. Under normal circumstances Ė and the stories of the last few days bear this out Ė heíd be pilloried abroad for a stunt like that. But with the green lights streaking over the skies of Baghdad on CNN, who can tell?