[For John Pilger some journalists in the mainstream media fail to report the facts when dealing with Venezuela, preferring instead to parrot Washington's line.]
Keep the record straight
By John Pilger - Comment Is Free
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
The book of which I am most proud is Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs. It was a long-held ambition of mine to bring together the work of those I considered the greatest journalists of my lifetime: the "honourable exceptions" of my craft. In paying tribute to them, I wanted to demonstrate to young journalists a calibre of truth-telling to which they might aspire. There is the reporting of Martha Gellhorn, Edward R Murrow, James Cameron, Seymour Hersh, Paul Foot, Robert Fisk, Jessica Mitford and the Guardian's Seumas Milne and Richard Norton-Taylor among others.
In celebrating those who kept and continue to keep the record straight - the basis of all good journalism - I also recognise the need to identify the example of those at the other end of the spectrum, whose work is hardly journalism at all, but who possess the power of exposure in the so-called mainstream media.
On March 28 2006 I described here a report broadcast on Channel 4 News the previous night by its Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman. Rugman is pretty typical of television's Washington correspondents; he reports as if embedded, when, in fact, his work is voluntary. What distinguishes him is his reporting from Venezuela. Rugman's brief visit last year to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, produced what I described here as "one of the worst, most distorted pieces of journalism I have ever seen qualifying as crude propaganda". This was a piece, I wrote, "which might as well have been written by the US state department". For example, he described Maria Corina Machado as a "human rights activist". In fact, she was a leader of Sumate, an extreme rightwing organisation, who had been welcomed to the White House by George Bush himself. He caricatured Hugo Chávez as a buffoon dictator. In fact, he is an authentic product of a popular political movement that began in 1989 who has won more democratic elections than any leader on earth. Rugman reported that Chávez was helping Iran develop a nuclear weapon. In fact, this is laughable - see the US National Intelligence Estimate report published on December 3 2007. At the end of his performance, Rugman complained dramatically to the camera that he had been "held for 30 hours" by police in Caracas. In fact, he had walked into a military base and, surprise, surprise, was apprehended - as he would be on any Ministry of Defence establishment in Britain - and Venezuela is a country whose president two years earlier had been temporarily overthrown in a military coup. In fact, Chávez himself arranged for Rugman's speedy release. Rugman's "report" was so absurd that Channel 4 News, which maintains a reputation, was inundated with complaints and, as I was told, "embarrassed" - though not embarrassed enough to desist from sending Rugman back to Venezuela for yesterday's important constitutional referendum.
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