BBC analysis highlights media bias in Venezuela as election approaches

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  • October 4, 2012

By Isabela Fraga

Venezuela's presidential election will take place next Sunday, Oct. 7. In this period of the campaign, the media landscape in the country is polarized between supporters of President Hugo Chávez and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. An analysis from BBC revealed that while the Venezuelan government has built a media empire of five public broadcasters, the state-run channels have only a slim 5.4 percent of the audience share, according to an investigation by AGB Panamericana.

BBC explained that Chávez's regular speeches have to be carried by all television channels, public and private. The NGO Public Space called the requirement a form of "continued censorship" that produces "freedom of expression restrictions for those sending the messages and, at the same time, restrictions on the rights of those receiving them."

Meanwhile, Chávez accused private media of manipulating reports and promoting "media terrorism." Critics denounced the persecution of media and Human Rights Watch claimed that the concentration of power in Venezuela weakens freedom of expression.

The television broadcaster Globovisión, one of the largest in the country, was recently fined $5.6 million for its allegedly biased coverage of a prison riot. After this incident, the Committee to Protect Journalists released a report stating that Chávez's attacks on the press were crippling the press in the South American country.

In light of this polarized environment, the BBC said that the government is frequently accused of media intimidation and clamping down on freedom of expression. Attacks on journalists, for both public and private media, have also gone up as election day approaches.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.