Reporters without Borders against Venezuela

Reporters without Borders no longer knows what to invent in its disinformation war against the democratic and popular government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.  While one supposes that the Parisian organization only concerns itself with freedom of the press, in reality it carries out a fierce political battle against the Bolivarian government.  Less than ten days after revealing numerous lies in an open letter (1), RSF returns to the charge and openly declares itself against the constitutional reform submitted to the December 2, 2007 referendum. (2)


“On the eve of the vote Reporters without Borders states its concern relating to two articles of the new text, dangerous for freedom of the press,” declared the organization headed by Robert Ménard. The “current reform […] dangerously distorts the initial heading, by means of articles 337 and 338, and threatens freedom of the press,” RSF stated. (3) Let us see what the reality is.


Article 337 stipulates that:


“The president of the Republic, through the Council of Ministers, may decree a state of emergency.  The article specifies that the a state of emergency may be invoked under  social, political, economic, natural or ecological circumstances that seriously affect the nation’s security, institutions and citizens, and when the authority to meet such challenges  become insufficient. In such a case, guarantees confirmed in this Constitution will be temporarily restricted or suspended, except those referring to the right to life, prohibition against torture, solitary confinement, forced disappearance, the right to self-defense and physical integrity, the right to a trial or the right to be judged by one’s peers and not to be sentenced to punishments exceeding thirty years.” (4)


As can be easily checked, there is nothing in Article 337 against freedom of the press, contrary to what RSF states. The article in question even specifies that in no case, under no circumstance, shall the “right to life, the prohibition of torture, solitary confinement, forced disappearance, the right to self-defense, to physical integrity, to be judged by peers and to not be sentenced to penalties exceeding thirty years” be questioned.  It’s worth pointing out that the state of emergency has never been used since Hugo Chavez’ rose to power in 1998. (5)


Article 338 of the Venezuelan reform is also clear. Here it is in its entirety:


“A state of alert can be declared when certain or imminent possibilities exist that situations are going to occur capable of generating catastrophes, public calamities or other similar events, with the purpose of taking necessary preventative measures to protect the security of the nation or its citizen.

A state of emergency can be declared when catastrophes, public calamities or other similar events occur that seriously put the security of the nation or its citizens in danger.

A state of economic emergency can be declared when extraordinary economic circumstances occur that seriously affect the economic life of the nation.

A state of domestic or exterior disturbance can be declared in the case of domestic or external conflict that puts the security of the nation, its citizens or institutions in danger.

The state of alert, emergency, economic emergency and domestic or foreign disturbances will last while the causes that motivated it exist.”


What is also clear, in no case is any reference made to a possible attack against freedom of the press.


What is the reality in France? According to law no.55-385 of April 3, 1955, which was applied in France from November 2005 to February 2006 by Jacques  Chirac’s government during the suburban uprising, “the declaration of the state of emergency gives powers to the prefect whose department finds itself totally or partially included in a district provided for in Article 2 to: 1. prohibit the circulation of people or vehicles in places and at times set by government order; 2. institute, by government order, protection or security zones where the presence of persons is regulated; 3. prohibit the presence in all or part of the department of any person who tries to obstruct the action of public powers in any way.”(Article 5) This law also gives the Minister of the Interior the power “To allocate residences in a territorial district or specific locality of everybody who resides in the zone”(Article 6),  “To close theaters, drinking establishments, and any kind of meeting places in the specific zones,” “to order the  searching of homes day and night”(Article 8), and above all “To authorize the same authorities to take all measures to assure the control of the press and publications of any type, as well as radio programs, movies, and theatrical productions” (Article 11). (6)


Why has RSF never revolted against the April 3, 1955 law suppressing liberty, which makes serious inroads against freedom of the press in France and also against public and individual freedoms, and which authorizes “military jurisdiction to replace civil jurisdiction in the investigation of crimes, and related offenses,” even “after the lifting of the state of emergency” (Articles 12 and 13). (7) Why doesn’t it ask for the repeal of emergency legislation that is contrary to the democratic spirit?   Instead of crusading against a non-existent attack against freedom of the press on another continent, shouldn’t RSF perhaps concern itself with violations against that same freedom in the French territory when it has its headquarters?


Making a mockery of its prerogatives and shattering all pretense of neutrality and impartiality, RSF adopts a political position and becomes a spokesman of the opposition, criticizing the reform while revealing its true face:  “What need did President Hugo Chávez have to undertake a constitutional reform, that he himself approved, running the risk of stirring up even more divisions and polarization among the citizens of his country?” Ménard describes the reform as “inappropriate” and claims that “the ratification of that reform could signify a dangerous turn for freedom of the press.”(8) What legitimacy does the organization have to meddle in the internal matters of the Bolivarian nation and pass judgment on the reform? Perhaps the Venezuelan people aren’t sovereign?


RSF also dares to state that the private channels Venevisión and Televen “have developed a pro-government position.”(9) Consulting the web sites of the two channels is enough to realize the absurd character of such statements. For example, Venevisión publishes in the section “important documents” the virulent statement of the Venezuelan employers union Fedecámaras, which is opposed to the reform and describes it as “invalid, unconstitutional, […] and fraudulent” and doesn’t hesitate to compare it with a “coup d’etat against democracy in Venezuela”(10); the statement of the Venezuelan bishops, also opposed to the reform, which they say “restricts freedoms and [which] represents a retreat in the progression of human rights […], which infringes fundamental rights of the individual and the democratic system […] [and which is] morally unacceptable in the light of the Church’s social doctrine”(11); the words of press tycoon, Gustavo Cisneros, bitter opponent of Hugo Chávez (12); the insulting words of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero during the Ibero-American Summit of November 12, 2007 (13); as well a pastoral exhortation against the government. (14)  The same thing can be shown with Televen, which published Colombian President Álvaro Uribe’s words declaring himself against the reform (15) and applauding an opposition demonstration in favor of “no.”(16)  The examples could be multiplied.  Once again RSF doesn’t hesitate at all in resorting to lying and misleading public opinion.


The Parisian organization doesn’t stop here and sings the same old song about the supposed monopoly the Venezuelan president would impose on the communications media, when in reality 80% of it belongs to the private sector. (17) On the other hand, RSF carefully refrained from condemning the call to assassinate Chávez, which CNN in Spanish issued November 28, 2007. In fact, the U.S. network displayed a portrait of the Venezuelan leader on the screen with the following question: “Who killed him?” The president of the country condemned the action saying, “The owners of the CNN network know that I am going to sue them for instigating the assassination of a president in Venezuela.” He denounced the process which he described as a “real bomb of a psychological war launched to the world, a real incitement for my assassination.” Those responsible at CNN affirmed that it was a mistake, without explaining why the image had stayed so long on the screen. (18)


William Lara, Minister of Popular Power for Information and Communication, condemned Robert Ménard’s words: “Reporters without Borders is a talking puppet from the United States Department of State, which receives financing from the United States government, and its mission is to assault Venezuela frequently, especially the Venezuelan government.” (19)


In fact, RSF is financed by the National Endowment for Democracy, which is no more than a front organization of the CIA, as sources above suspicion have stated like the New York Times and Allen Weinstein, father of the law that gave birth to the governmental entity. (20) Robert Ménard doesn’t run a humanitarian association. RSF is an organization at the service of Washington, the Venezuelan oligarchy and the powerful of the world.




(1) Reporteros sin Fronteras, «Reporteros sin Fronteras escribe a Nicolas Sarkozy en la víspera de la entrevista con su homólogo venezolano Hugo Chávez», 19 de noviembre de 2007. (sitio consultado el 19 de noviembre de 2007).

(2) Reporteros sin Fronteras, «Referéndum constitucional: Reporteros sin Fronteras teme que se produzca «’un giro peligroso para la libertad de prensa’», 28 de noviembre de 2007. (sitio consultado el 28 de noviembre de 2007).

(3) Reporteros sin Fronteras, «Referéndum constitucional: Reporteros sin Fronteras teme que se produzca ‘un giro peligroso para la libertad de prensa’», op. cit.

(4) Artículo 337 de la reforma constitucional de 2007.

(5) ibd.

(6) Ley n°55-385 del 3 de abril de 1955. (sitio consultado el 1 de diciembre de 2007).

(7) Ibid.

(8) Reporteros sin Fronteras, «Referéndum constitucional: Reporteros sin Fronteras teme que se produzca ‘un giro peligroso para la libertad de prensa’», op. cit.

(9) Ibid.

(10) José Manuel González de Tovar, «Fedecámaras dice no a la reforma», Venevisión, 2 de noviembre de 2007. (sitio consultado el 1 de diciembre de 2007).

(11) Arzobispos y obispos de Venezuela, « Exhortación del Episcopado Venezolano sobre la propuesta de la Reforma Constitucional», Venevisión, 19 de octubre de 2007. ( sitio consultado el 1 de diciembre de 2007).

(12) Gustavo Cisneros, «Libertad de prensa, democracia y competitividad», Venevisión, 21 de septiembre de 2007. (sitio consultado el 1 de diciembre de 2007).

(13) José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, «Intervención del presidente José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero durante la Cumbre Iberoamericana celebrada en Chile», Venevisión, 12 de noviembre de 2007. (sitio consultado el 1 de diciembre de 2007).

(14) Arzobispos y obispos de Venezuela, «Exhortación pastoral LXXXVIII Asamblea Ordinaria Plenaria», Venevisión, 7 de julio de 2007. (sitio consultado el 1 de diciembre de 2007).

(15) Noticiero Televen, «Uribe advierte riesgos de reelección indefinida», 29 de noviembre de 2007. (sitio consultado el 1 de diciembre de 2007).

(16) Noticiero Televen, «El NO va por el reto de llenar la avenida Bolívar», 29 de noviembre de 2007. (sitio consultado el 1 de diciembre de 2007).

(17) Reporteros sin Fronteras, «Referéndum constitucional: Reporteros sin Fronteras teme que se produzca ‘un giro peligroso para la libertad de prensa’», op. cit.

(18) Fabiola Sánchez, «Gobierno venezolano evalúa demanda contra CNN», Associated Press/El Nuevo Herald, 28 de noviembre de 2007.

(19) Venezolana de Televisión, «Reporteros sin Fronteras miente y difama», 28 de noviembre de 2007.

(20) John M. Broder, «Political Meddling by Outsiders: Not New for U.S.», The New York Times, 31 de marzo de 1997, p. 1; Allen Weinstein, Washington Post, 22 de septiembre de 1991.



Salim Lamrani is a French professor, writer and journalist, specializing in the relations between Cuba and the United States. He has published the following titles: Washington contre Cuba (Washington against Cuba) (Pantin: Le Temps des Cerises, 2005), Cuba face à l’Empire (Cuba at the Hands of the Empire) (Genève: Timeli, 2006), Fidel Castro, Cuba et les Etats-Unis(Fidel Castro, Cuba and the United States) (Pantin: Le Temps des Cerises, 2006) and Double Morale. Cuba, l’Union européenne et les droits de l’homme (Paris : Editions Estrella, 2008).



Translated by: Dana Lubow 1-6-08

Edited by Robert Sandels

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