“The fourth estate in our country has on many occasions become the first estate,” explained Telesur President Andrés Izarra in a Special Session of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS). In his speech, Izarra related the history of the nefarious role played by Venezuelan private media outlets in the April 2002 coup d’état and the oil sabotage (2002-2003), when they not only broadcast hate, they also denied Venezuelan’s their right to truthful information. He also emphasized that Venezuela is currently experiencing a media war.
Izarra, formerly Venezuela’s Minister of Communication and Information, explained how the irresponsible use of freedom of expression contributed to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, showing how defense of hate in the media can have fatal result. Rwandan media outlets, particularly Radio Television Mille Collines (RTML) and Kangura newspaper—both controlled by Hutu extremists—were found liable for the genocide by the International Criminal Court for Rwanda. This April marked the 15th anniversary of the genocide.
The Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, criticized the organization “for being in hibernation since the cold war in terms of analysis and debates.” Nevertheless, Chaderton indicated that it was a good sign that the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression had facilitated the participation, at OAS venues, of schools of thought that are not often heard.
Chaderton, former Foreign Minister of Venezuela, also denounced the racism which is predominant in media programming. He also referred to a criticism made by Pope John Paul II in a Message to the Thirty Third World Conference on Social Communications.
At the inaugural session, the President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Venezuelan Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero, spoke about rights and responsibilities associated with freedom of expression.
Mejía also referred to Latin America’s recent history, when traditional media were subject to economic, political and ideological interests “where led to broadcast events under those approaches and points of view.”
During his speech, Chilean representative Pedro Oyarce indicated that he shared “many of the critiques made by Ambassador Chaderton, particularly the relation between media outlets and politics, culture and inclusion,” emphasizing that these are topics which must be debated.
This special session of the OAS was named: The Right to Freedom of Though and Expression and the Importance of the Media.
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Press Office / April 23, 2009