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Latin America: On teleSUR's Coverage of Libya Uprising

Categories: Latin America, Middle East & North Africa, Libya, Venezuela, Humanitarian Response, Humor, International Relations, Media & Journalism, Politics, Protest

Latin American news channel teleSUR [1], backed by the Venezuelan government and broadcasting from Caracas, managed earlier this week to send several journalists (including a special correspondent, Jordán Rodríguez) into Tripoli to cover the ongoing uprising in Libya. Nonetheless, its coverage [2] [es], which seems quite different to the one provided by other international news media [3], has caught the attention of many Latin Americans.

Latin American news channel teleSUR. Image by Flickr user alejandro! (CC BY-NC 2.0). [4]

Latin American news channel teleSUR. Image by Flickr user alejandro! (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Unlike the Egyptian protests [5], when teleSUR mostly relied on the coverage by Al Jazeera English (both outlets have a content deal [6] since 2006) and which were celebrated as a “victory” [7] by the network, teleSUR seemed to have, specially during the early days of their coverage inside Libya, a favourable bias to the country's ruler Muammar Al Gaddafi. Critics of teleSUR have claimed it is a “propaganda tool” for left-wing Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and last week when rumours [8] emerged about Gaddafi having fled to Venezuela, many people were reminded [9] about the close relationship between the two leaders [10].

Prometeo from Poder5 [es] [11] compares teleSUR coverage of Libya with the one by outlets such as Al Jazeera and the BBC:

La cosa es que a los medios no se les ha permitido filmar todo como quiesieran, solo la televisor del estado funciona lo que se ve por Al Jazeera y otros ha sido por periodistas valientes que se ha infiltrado y por ciudadanos libios que han tomado fotos con su celulares y cámaras para enviarlas fuera.
Curiosamente la Cadena de noticias Tele SUR ha tenido acceso al mismo lugar donde estaban las manifestaciones y reporta que todo está bien
Yo pregunto, ¿será que los de TeleSUR llegaron a otro país por equivocación? ¿Será que están manipulando la información? ¿Será que hay una agenda de parte del gobierno de Hugo Chávez, el dueño de TeleSUR, para lavarle la cara a su amigo Gaddafi?

The thing is that media have not been allowed to report everything as they wish, only the state TV works, what we can see through Al Jazeera and other [things] have been reported by courageous journalists who have infiltrated and by Libyan citizens taking pictures with their cellphones and cameras to send them abroad.
Interestingly, the teleSUR news network has had access to the same place where the demonstrations were taking place and reports that everything is okay.
I ask, the teleSUR reporters have mistakenly arrived to another country? Are they manipulating the information? Is there an agenda by president Hugo Chávez's administration, teleSUR's owner, to wash the face of his friend Gaddafi?

There was also some controversy in Argentina [12] [es], when state news agency Télam [13] used teleSUR's coverage to report that “Tripoli is in peace”.

Argentinian Observatorio Marxista de Medios publishes an e-mail [14] [es] sent by a writer working for the local Trotskyist party's weekly newspaper, where he also criticizes teleSUR's coverage of Libya:

Se entiende por qué Telesur, la cadena de noticias con sede en Caracas, tomó de forma muy distinta los acontecimientos sucedidos en Egipto y los que hoy sacuden a Libia. Mientras semanas atrás retransmitía casi a tiempo completo lo que registraba Al Jazira, hablando de la “revolución social triunfante”, hoy apenas informa sobre lo que pasa en Libia, dando un trato especial al gobierno de Gadafi e incluso diciendo que “prosigue la tensión en Libia con protestas a favor y en contra del presidente”. Pero no pueden transmitir mucho, ya que cualquier información más o menos seria que tienen que dar desde allí habla de la brutal, sanguinaria y letal represión que Gadafi descarga sobre la población Libia.

We understand why Telesur, the Caracas-based news network, treated in different ways the events which occurred in Egypt and those shaking Libya today. While weeks ago it rebroadcasted almost around the clock what Al Jazeera was feeding, speaking about the “triumphant social revolution”, today it barely reports the Libyan events, giving a special treatment to Gaddafi's government and even claiming that “the tension in Libya continues with demonstrations for and against the president.” But they can't broadcast a lot, because any more or less accurate information they should report from there is about the brutal, bloody, and lethal repression Gaddafi is venting against the Libyan people.

But Ález Arango, from far-left blog Utopia la palabra, defends teleSUR [15] [es] and criticizes Welsh philosopher (and supporter of Hugo Chávez) Alan Woods [16]stance on the Libya crisis [17]:

Telesur cuenta con un equipo periodístico en el corazón de Trípoli. Se trata de un medio de comunicación alternativo que informa de manera objetiva acerca de los sucesos que tienen lugar en el Norte de África.
[…] Quiero manifestar que los informes del señor Alan Woods están basados exclusivamente en informaciones provenientes de los medios de prensa occidentales procapitalistas incluyendo Al Jazeera […] Hacer eco a las informaciones de las agencias de prensa occidentales y tomarlas como la verdad revelada implica la enorme probabilidad de incurrir en falsos juicios de interpretación aacerca de la realidad y hacerse parte del coro que encabeza occidente cuyo propósito es el de ocupar Libia y posicionarse en ese territorio para ganar espacio y poder confrontar desde allí el auge revolucionario de los pueblos árabes.

Telesur has a journalistic team in the heart of Tripoli. We're talking about an alternative media outlet which reports in an objective way about the events happening in North Africa.
[…]I want to state that the reports by Alan Woods are based exclusively in information from western, pro-capitalist media including Al Jazeera […] Echoing the reports by the western news agencies and taking them as revealed truth implies the huge possibility of making false interpretative opinions about reality and become part of the chorus leaded by the West, whose purpose is occupying Libya and taking positions inside that country to earn space and face from there the revolutionary boom by Arab peoples.

Anti-Chávez satire blog El chigüire bipolar mocks teleSUR [18] [es] with a post titled: “teleSUR reports that Libya looks ‘completely normal’ from Google Earth.”

Twitter has not escaped from the controversy. Alonso Moleiro (@amoleiro [19]), a journalist in Caracas, states:

El e[]pisodio de Libia es la muerte defin[it]iva de la credibilidad de Telesur.

The Libyan episode is the definitive death for Telesur's credibility.

Santiago B. (@santib_ [20]), also from Caracas, wonders:

¿Será que Telesur no se pilló al propio embajador de Libia ante la ONU llorando por la matanza de miles de sus compatriotas?.

Didn't Telesur catch the Libyan ambassador to the UN crying [21] because of the murder of thousands of his fellow country people?

@elojocondientes [22] tweets from Argentina:

TeleSur está haciendo una cobertura espectacular. te recomiendo que sigas el programa Dossier de W Mrtinez. Impecable. #Libia

TeleSur is having an awesome coverage. I recommend you follow Dossier [es] [23] with W M[a]rtinez. Flawless. #Libya

Venezuelan Twitter user Abi (@AbiG90 [24]) says:

Me gustaria saber que piensa ahora el conductor de Dossier y telesur con todas las pruebas que hay en video de lo que acontece en Libia

I'd like to know what do Dossier‘s presenter and Telesur think with all the evidence in video [25] about what's going on in Libya

Carlos R. (@komunikt [26]) writes from Caracas:

segun Telesur lo que ocurre en #libia es una riña entre vecinos que no trasciende mas alla de la callecita donde hubo los manotazos.

according to Telesur what's happening in #libya is a neighbour's fight which doesn't go beyond the little street where the slaps occurred.

@radiomachaca [27] jokes:

Telesur Informa:Queman mansion de Gadaffi en Lybia pero trankilos esa es un vieja Tradicion Para demostrarle su amor a el Lider

Telesur reports: Gadaffi's mansion burnt down in Lybia, but it's okay, it's an old tradition to show love for their Leader

Al Giordano from NarcoNews posted a long critique of teleSUR [28], calling it a “flop” and claiming that the network “has treated its viewers to a total cover-up and whitewashed version of events in Libya. It has served as a clownish propaganda vehicle for the embattled Libyan dictator.” His post has received many comments, and a few days later, Giordano published a comment [29] where he reveals that there is an ongoing controversy inside teleSUR:

It may also be of interest to our readers that the reporter, Reed Lindsay [sent by teleSUR to western Libya], is a 2003 graduate of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, and we have received information from other TeleSur journalists that there is a strong debate within that news organization at present over its coverage of Libya, perhaps unprecedented in the network's six years in that journalists within the channel – the workers of the station – have strongly objected to the simulation and dishonesty that plagued TeleSur's Libya coverage up until now. As with the larger Bolivarian revolution, there are many, many people of conscience who see human rights and resistance as higher priorities than geopolitical alliances, so things have taken an interesting turn, to say the least. Let's hope to see more of it.

On Friday it was reported that a teleSUR crew was arrested [30] [es], despite being inside a diplomatic Venezuelan vehicle; Mr Rodríguez's cellphone was seized (where he had recorded some footage in Tripoli [31]), and he and his cameraman Jesús Romero were beaten by a group of policemen. On Saturday, Rodríguez tweeted [32] [es] that foreign news media reporters will stay at Tripoli's Hotel Roxes.