Public Service & Propaganda     

There have been no negative and many positive responses to this section on public service and propaganda. But very few of the respondents have been willing to publish their views, which may have something to do with the issues raised by the anonymous author of the first item below.

"Dangerous to speak out"

"I believe you are correct in your assessment. I would not want even a note like this published with my name on it as I would be hesitant to ever go back into the U. S. to visit relatives there. The powers granted to the military and intelligence services there since last Sept. [2001] now make it rather dangerous to speak out. In fact, I would worry about your skin, just doing what you are doing now." (5 March 2002)

-- Former U.S. citizen, now a university professor and citizen of another country, who prefers to remain anonymous.

"Free media no longer necessary"

"You have done an excellent analysis, and I am pleased that you refer to the abuse to which I have been subjected. Today I learned that Serbian TV may no longer broadcast live from The Hague; it will have to pay a penalty if it does so. Free media were considered necessary when the 'democratically enlighted nations' were bombing the civilian population of Yugoslavia-- but not any longer, it seems."  (8 March 2002)

-- Karin Wegestål, Member of Swedish Parliament

Cure for journalistic plague

"Superb exhortation to SVT and its mental occupation by the USA. The subjective SVT and other media have been plaguing me for ten years with their 'news' from the Balkans. Your exhortation has made me healthy again. It was a pleasure to read. Bravo! There is nothing more to say." (9 March 2002)

-- Vladimir Ilic; immigrated from Yugoslavia to Sweden 1975

”Scandalous reporting”

”I agree completely with your analysis,” writes Örjan Appelqvist, economic historian and co-editor of Essential Myrdal. Briefly summarized below is his formal letter of complaint concerning Swedish Public TV's coverage of the short-lived coup against Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez in April, 2002. (The complete Swedish text of the letter is also available.)
English synopsis: Under the heading of ”SVT’s scandalous reporting on the attempted coup in Venezuela,” Appelqvist argues that: ”Journalists often say that they strive to be objective, that it is not their business to take sides. But they often do just that by routinely following the agenda and reflecting the values of U.S. news bureaus. Coverage of the coup in Venezuela provides a typical example.”

As in the U.S. mainstream media, SVT reported the event as a justified revolt against an unpopular dictator who had eliminated basic freedoms. But Appelqvist points out that Chavez was, in fact, an exceedingly popular leader who had offended corrupt elites with a series of democratic reforms. Thus, the coup was the sort of military assault on democracy that has often been staged before in Latin America with the help of the U.S. government. The associated propaganda and the statements of approval from the White House were part of an all-too-familiar scenario: ”Shouldn’t foreign correspondents have heard some warning bells ”, he asks.

It was the elected president’s popularity and the blatantly undemocratic actions of the coup-makers that led to the massive popular uprising which resulted in Chavez’s reinstallation a few days later. But that dramatic reversal must have been inexplicable for an otherwise uninformed consumer of SVT news, observes Appleqvist: ”There was no background information-- nothing about the origins of the present conflict or the old system of corruption, and nothing about Chavez’s social reforms and attempts at democratization.”

Particularly disturbing, argues Appelqvist, was SVT’s indifference to the democratic issues at stake: ”To not mention the most important aspect-- that it was an attempt to topple a democratically elected government by illegal means-- is to grossly violate the requirement of accurate reporting.”

Primarily for that reason, Appelqvist has filed a complaint about the SVT coverage with the Swedish Broadcasting Review Board.
(Letter dated 21 April 2002)