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By Vicki Adame
NAHJ Bay Area Chapter president
If we were to rely on the majority of U.S. English-language media outlets to inform us on the anti-government protests in Venezuela, we would be led to believe nothing is going on in the Latin American country.
Even a week later as the demonstrators and deaths escalated, a quick glance at the websites of the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times revealed nothing of the growing anti-government demonstrations by mostly young people which have been occurring for the past three weeks. The protests stem from an outrage over, not only a lack of day of everyday items such as toilet paper and cooking oil, and high inflation, but also against the ever-mounting repression against those who dare speak out against the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro.
On Wednesday, one of the local English-language stations in the San Francisco Bay Area devoted two minutes to the situation in the Ukraine, but not one single word on Venezuela.
And this after news broke that very morning that local Venezuelan beauty queen Genesis Carmona had been shot in the head while marching in one of the anti-government demonstrations. She later died at a hospital.
And it wasn’t just local English-language media outlets ignoring Venezuela.
That same evening, ABC World News ran a piece on the Ukraine, but nothing on Venezuela. On Saturday, more than a week after the anti-government protests continued to build, both the websites NBC News and World News Tonight had no mention of Venezuela – but both prominently displaced stories on the Ukraine unrest.
Although theprotests began earlier this month, they gained worldwide attention on Feb. 12 when three people were killed.
Well, worldwide attention minus the United States where English-language media continued a news blackout on Venezuela.
Were it not for Spanish-language news and CNN – which have both done a solid job on reporting on the unrest – we would have no clue what is happening in Venezuela.
The lack of coverage continued even after the number of protestors swelled following the deaths.
The response by Maduro’s government was to crack down on protestors using the military to reportedly beat and detain demonstrators. The government has even gone as far as to block Twitter at times and even curtail media coverage of the unrest.
In fact, a CNN crew had its cameras and equipment taken away as they reported on the situation earlier this week. CNN was then kicked out of the country by Maduro over their consistent coverage of the unrest.
But yet, none of this has been reported by U.S. English-language media. Well, let me clarify that, one of the networks finally ran a piece on Friday’s evening news, but it was after a much longer report on the Ukraine.
No journalist can deny this is news that must be reported. Yet it is not.
So I ask, why is it media outlets feel one country’s unrest deserves more coverage than another’s? The situation in Venezuela is just as deadly as the one in the Ukraine, yet it has taken days for it get any coverage.
It would be preposterous to assume that there are no Venezuelans in the United States. According to the U.S. Census, Venezuelans are the 13th largest population of Hispanic origin living in the United States. In fact, the Venezuelan population increased 135 percent between 2000 and 2010.
How can we be an informed society when the media dictates what is presented? Could it be those making the decision on what to report are biased or simply feel that a country in South America, which just happens to be the fourth-largest exporter of oil to the United States, is simply unimportant?
What has to happen for English-language media to recognize this gaping hole in their coverage?
Perhaps the answer is as simple as getting diverse voices in the newsroom. Unless Latinos are represented in U.S. newsrooms in proportion to the overall Latino population of the country, stories like the anti-government demonstrations and restriction of press freedoms currently going on in Venezuela, will continue to go missing from the news.