The coverage of the efforts by Edward Snowden to get asylum in the four Latin American countries (Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua) has been accompanied by much snickering among the chattering classes about the ‘irony’ that a whistleblower championing transparency would seek asylum in countries that supposedly do not themselves have much press freedom. This ignores the obvious fact, of course, that now that he has largely achieved his goal of blowing the lid off the US government’s actions, his primary task is to find a country that will not let him fall into the hands of the repressive Obama regime.
But via Samuel Knight, I learned of a group of 28 scholars that argue that the very premise of the critiques of these four countries is wrong, and in an open letter looks at the state of the media in those countries and find them to be much better than these snarky critics imply. They take particular issue with the views of the media in the US of the press in Venezuela and Ecuador.
Of course, any such “ironies” would be irrelevant even if they were based on factual considerations. The media has never noted the “irony” of the many thousands of people who have taken refuge in the United States, which is currently torturing people in a secret prison at Guantanamo, and regularly kills civilians in drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries. Nor has the press noted the “irony” of refugees who have fled here from terror that was actively funded and sponsored by the U.S. government, e.g. from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, and other countries
But in fact the “irony” that U.S. journalists mention is fantastically exaggerated. It is based on the notion that the governments of Venezuela under Chávez (and now Maduro) and Ecuador under Correa have clamped down on freedom of the press. Most consumers of the U.S. media unfortunately don’t know better, since they have not been to these countries and have not been able to see that the majority of media are overwhelmingly anti-government, and that it gets away with more than the U.S. media does here in criticizing the government. Imagine if Rupert Murdoch controlled most U.S media outlets, rather than the minority share that his News Corp actually owns then you’d start to have some idea what the media landscape in Ecuador, Venezuela and most of Latin America looks like.
The true irony in the cases of Snowden, Assange, Manning and others is that the U.S. government, while claiming to defend freedom of the press, speech and information, has launched an assault on the media that is unprecedented in U.S. history.
The full letter is well worth reading.