Banned! Breaking down Venezuela’s Expulsion of CNN en Español from their Airwaves
On Wednesday February, 15 the Venezuelan government ordered cable providers to take CNN en Español off the air, after CNN aired “Passports in the shadow,” an investigation into an alleged network of sale of Venezuelan passports to citizens from the Middle East in exchange for huge sums of money. The coverage of the CNN en Español ban was covered very differently among Venezuelan and US media outlets. Additionally, the Venezuelan government accused CNN of distorting the truth in its coverage, similar to the US government’s accusation of various media outlets reporting “alternative facts” and fake news.
Various top-tier US media outlets covered the CNN en Español suspension including CNN, Fortune and The Wall Street Journal. The US outlets highlighted the unavailability of the program minutes after a statement by telecommunications regulator Conatel announced its ban. US outlets also highlighted CNN en Español’s free offering of live signal on YouTube and news links on CNNEspanol.com, so Venezuelans may have access to information not available to them in any other way. The Channel's general manager, Cynthia Hudson, highlighted the outlet’s belief in the freedom of press by saying “We do hope that ... we can try to reach some kind of agreement for CNN en Español to get back to the business of free speech and free press in Venezuela."
Alternatively, Venezuelan news channel, Today Venezuela framed the story as an attempt of the United States via CNN to undermine the autonomy the Venezuelan people exercise over oil, whose income is no longer in the hands of oligarchs because it is invested in the social and economic development of the country. Conatel, a telecommunications regulator within Venezuela, released a statement accusing CNN of issuing arguments without proving that they "defame and distort the truth," directing them to probable incitement of external aggression against Venezuelan sovereignty. Additionally, Nicolás Maduro, President of Venezuela, counterattacked and said CNN was bought with money from drug trafficking and its foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, denounced a "global media campaign" against Venezuela.
Parallels can be drawn amongst Venezuelan coverage of CNN en Español’s suspension and Donald Trump’s accusations of the media reporting “alternative facts” and fake news. Both entities claim the media distorts the truth, with Trump specifically referring to mainstream media outlets as "fake news." George Saunders from The New Yorker noted that the US has two separate ideological countries, LeftLand and RightLand that reason differently, speak different languages, draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems, a dynamic that is becoming increasingly apparent to the international community. There is a heightened accountability bestowed upon today’s public when consuming news to assess whether spokespeople and select media outlets had a “significant vested interest that could skew their judgement” when reading the news. The media landscape has definitely become tougher to navigate and we’ll continue to monitor how the growing participation of governments in mainstream media will impact the concept of a free press.