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comparing coverage of South Africa and Venezuela

August 25, 2010

In South Africa, journalists are concerned that two ANC legislative proposals will restrict press freedoms. One would create a “media appeals tribunal, which would punish reporters for ‘irresponsible and misleading reporting’”, and the other would reform the rules regarding citizen access to government information. The US ambassador, along with the Committee to Protect Journalists, have already weighed in. There are similarities to Venezuela, both in the current context and that of a failed July 2009 proposal from the fiscalía. What interests me is the difference in reporting on these cases. Mainstream english-language reporting on Venezuela tends to attribute all government actions directly to Chávez, whereas the articles I’ve read about South Africa refer to the ANC’s proposal – not Zuma’s. The implication is that Chávez is dictatorial. (I pointed this out recently in reference to a WSJ article.) For instance, compare the NY Time’s reporting on the two cases: In South Africa it’s the “A.N.C.-led government”, but in Venezuela it’s “Mr. Chávez’s government” and “Mr. Chávez [himself] had worsened the homicide problem by cutting money for state and city governments led by political opponents”.

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