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Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, former AP reporter Bart Jones—no relation to fellow Orinoco Basin enthusiast Jim—assures Mary Baker Eddyists that Hugo Chávez "is no enemy of free speech." On the contrary, RCTV, the television station recently shuttered by the "Bolivarian revolution," was removed from the airwaves only when it "edged fully into sedition."

Caracas protest

While acknowledging that "Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; the Committee to Protect Journalists; and members of the European Parliament, the US Senate, and even Chile's Congress have denounced the closure of RCTV" (He might want to add the French Socialist Party and the woman from "Moscow on the Hudson" to the list), Jones explains that the channel, owned by the "fabulously wealthy", monocle-wearing bourgeoisie, "preempted regular programming and ran wall-to-wall coverage of a general strike aimed at ousting Chávez," while ignoring Chavista counter-protests.

Bart quotes "RCTV news director" Andreas Izarra as saying that "zero pro-Chavez, nothing related to Chavez or his supporters" was allowed on the air, while neglecting to mention that Izarra no longer works for RCTV, having left to take a job as Chavez's Minister of Communication and Information and president of Telesur, the Castro-backed 24-hour news channel based in Caracas.

Under similar circumstances, says Jones, "The US government probably would have shut down RCTV within five minutes after a failed coup attempt—and thrown its owners in jail." But what Bart and the increasingly vocal band of Chavez defenders ignore is the lack of due process afforded to RCTV and its owner Marcel Granier. Granier was never prosecuted, and, according to Human Rights Watch , "no procedure was established to enable RCTV to present evidence and arguments in its favor." The two other channels that tacitly supported the coup, Venevision and Televen, have since softened coverage of Chavez, and have thus far avoided the fate of RCTV.

Today, Reporters Without Borders released the results of its "fact-finding mission" to Venezuela, concluding that "RCTV's closure was much more than just an administrative measure. It was a political move without precedent in Latin America, a key element in a government takeover of the broadcast media that is part of a determined effort to control and occupy the entire public arena."

Full report here.