Media organisations and social-media users critical of the US-backed coup are being censored.
By Steve Sweeney
Britain was warned against supporting a bloody coup in Venezuela today as media attacks on the country’s supporters intensified.
Imperialist governments followed the United States’ lead in declaring support for Juan Guaido’s claim to be interim president.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed the British government’s support for the unelected president of Venezuela’s defunct national assembly after the deadline passed for an ultimatum issued to democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro to call new elections.
Mr Hunt joined in a co-ordinated move with other European governments — those of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden and Denmark — recognising Mr Guaido as the interim president.
But the decision by the Tory government — which could be likened to the support given to the CIA-backed coup against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1970 — was blasted as “a democratic outrage” by Labour MP Chris Williamson.
He told the Star: “Anyone with a modicum of common sense knows that this intervention by the US has nothing whatsoever to do with democracy and everything to do with oil. Britain’s decision to recognise Juan Guaido is truly absurd and unacceptable.”
Questions have been raised over Britain’s role in the unfolding media war amid accusations of growing misinformation about Venezuela being fed through global news outlets since Prime Minister Theresa May admitted her government had been funding and training opposition journalists in the country.
Ms May, responding to a question from Culture Secretary John Whittingdale in PMQs last week on statistics which showed an increase in global killings of journalists last year, said: “We are helping to train journalists around the world, such as in Venezuela, where we have seen an authoritarian government suppress their critics…”
On the other hand pro-Maduro media organisations and numbers of social-media users have been censored by those that support Mr Guaido’s illegitimate claims.
Pro-democracy campaigners and press-freedom groups have warned that media bias promoting the Venezuelan opposition — led by outlets including the BBC and the Guardian — is designed to play a role in undermining Maduro’s government and legitimising the attempted coup.
BBC international correspondent Orla Guerin came under fire on Saturday for stating that the pro-government demonstration in Caracas was “suspiciously large” as hundreds of thousands took to the streets in support of Mr Maduro.
The one-sided news segment carried interviews with pro-opposition supporters and showed footage of Mr Guaido speaking from a platform adorned with a US flag.
Ms Guerin said that the BBC could not attend both demonstrations as they were held at the same time, indicating the state broadcaster had prioritised Mr Guaido’s demonstration, which was framed as “a moment of history.”
Russian media organisation Sputnik and Venezuela-based outlet Telesur were refused accreditation for a press conference held in Canada by the Lima group of mainly right-wing regional countries opposed to Mr Maduro.
The media organisations, deemed to be supportive of the Venezuelan government, were not given a reason for being banned from the meeting in Ottawa but were told their applications had been refused by the government.
A total of 1,196 Twitter accounts based in Venezuela suspected of attempting to “influence domestic audiences” were purged and a further 764 accounts deleted last week, though the social-media giant admitted it had no proof that the accounts were linked to Mr Maduro’s government.
“We are unable to definitively tie the accounts located in Venezuela to information operations of a foreign government against another country,” a Twitter statement read.
Media Lens, an online project that has been analyzing mainstream media bias since 2001, warned: “In a close replay of the trumped-up regime-change campaigns on oil-rich Iraq and Libya which proved so disastrous for those countries, Western governments and corporate media have now launched a propaganda blitz targeting the government of oil-rich Venezuela.
“US-UK media, including BBC News and the Guardian, are united in presenting President Maduro as a ‘dictator,’ ‘despot’ and ‘tyrant,’ ignoring independent testimony affirming the fairness of the May 2018 elections, and the observable fact that many Venezuelan newspapers, broadcasters and other media are fiercely critical of the government.”
Media Lens told the Star that while the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis is real, the comments of the first UN rapporteur to visit the country for 21 years, Alfred de Zayas, who branded the economic sanctions imposed by the US “crimes against humanity” have been largely ignored by the British press except for the Independent and the Morning Star.
“Alongside this ‘mainstream’ filtering of the truth, social-media giants Twitter and Facebook are closing down accounts supportive of the Maduro government accused of promoting ‘fake news.’
“Will they also be silencing pro-opposition accounts as well as UK corporate newspapers and websites — again, notably the BBC — offering an embarrassingly one-sided version of events in Venezuela? We all know the answer,” MediaLens said.