Biased stories from NPR

Ed Sawicki - June 22, 2007

National Public Radio is ordinarily a good source of news and entertainment.Occassionally, one of their news stories is a problem. This page gives one example.


The Thursday, June 21, 2007 Tell Me More show hosted by Michel Martin aired a segment called Anchor Buddy: Mexico's Endangered Journalists. NPR describes the segment like this:

Mexican journalist Ana Maria Salazar and Carlos Lauria, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, talk about the threats facing journalists in Mexico and in all of Latin America. According to the Washington Post, more than 30 have been killed in Mexico alone since 2000, making it the second deadliest place, after Iraq, for reporters.

Right off, NPR has it wrong. Mexico is not the second deadliest place for reporters after Iraq. Columbia is. These are the number of journalists killed in Latin America since 2000:

Colombia 48
Mexico 31
Brazil 14
Venezuela  4

No mention is made of Columbia, where more journalists are murdered than in Mexico. Other than that, Ms. Salazar and Mr. Lauria did a good job during this portion of the interview. Halfway through the show, Ms. Martin moved the discussion to Venezuela - a country with far fewer murders of journalists. Why bring up Venezuela when Columbia and Brazil are much more appropriate topics for an show about endangered journalists?

She asked her guests about free speech issues in Venezuela. She wants to talk about how Venezuela didn't renewal RCTV's broadcast license after the network participated in the 2002 coup d'etat attempt. She doesn't want to talk about journalists being murdered any longer. However, she doesn't tell her guests about this change of focus.

Mr. Lauria did most of the talking and his position is that the Chavez government is violating free speech by not renewing RCTV's license. There was nobody to present the opposing point of view, which is that RCTV took part in an insurrection.

The off-topic Venezuela segment ended with Ana Maria Salazar saying “...if we can't write about these stories because it's dangerous...”

These stories?

Does Ms. Salazar mean the murder of journalists or the non-renewal of RCTV's broadcast license? It's not clear. Listeners could easily get the impression that the two are linked—that journalists are being killed in Venezuela because of free speech issues. They're not.

This ambiguity is not the fault of Ms. Salazar. The fault belongs to the show's interviewer and producer.

Why be critical of what may have been very sloppy interviewing and production? Because there's a lot at stake. Powerful interests, such as the Bush Administration, want to remove Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, from power. This is not likely to happen without a U.S.-backed invasion. The majority of Venezuelans support Chavez, as they did during the 2002 attempted coup d'etat. An invasion would be bloody.

It's important that NPR not innocently or deliberately provide aid to those bent on such an invasion.


Wikipedia: 2002 Venezuelan coup d'etat attempt

Wikipedia: RCTV

Committee to Protect Journalists

Wikipedia: Hugo Chavez