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World Opinion Roundup

Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 17, 2004; 1:00 PM

In his weekly show, washingtonpost.com staff writer Jefferson Morley conducts a freewheeling tour of the best of Internet news sites from Afghanistan to Beijing to Mexico City to Paris to Zimbabwe.

Today Morley discusses international press reaction to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's apparent victory in a recall referendum.


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Read today's column:Chavez, the Poor Man's Survivor (Post, Aug. 17)

World Opinion Roundup brings the diversity of the global online media to your screen, presenting today's news and views from journalists, pundits and commentators from every continent. We'll talk about America in the eyes of the world, compare journalistic practices, analyze politics and perspectives, examine the nature of news and debate styles of journalism.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Jefferson Morley: Hello all. After a three week vacation it is good to be back. I'm looking forward to today's discussion. As usual, I will answer questions related to today's column (on Hugo Chavez's smashing victory) first.

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Alexandria, Va.: I have a friend who wants to participate in a teaching program in Venezuela in January. In your opinion, is the current political attitude toward the U.S. in Venezuela too hostile for her to go?

Jefferson Morley: No. By all reports, the political tensions between the Chavez government and the U.S. government do not translate into antagonism toward Americans. As a country devoted to baseball and beauty contests, Venezuela is a congenial country for most U.S. visitors.

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Raleigh, N.C.: Do other nations see Venezuela through the prism of petroleum as much as we do here in the U.S? Or are they more concerned about the internal political struggle?

Jefferson Morley: No. While oil must figure prominently in any serious coverage of Venezuela, the international press does not emphasize this aspect of the story more (or less) than the U.S. press.

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Arlington, Va.: Are the international press doing any better job than the American press in covering the emerging inconsistencies in Kerry's Vietnam record?

Jefferson Morley: The international press has not shown much interest in the story. This may have something to do with the partisan motivation of the people making the charges. Kerry's Vietnam record is usually regarded as praiseworthy. Here's a link to a recent Pakistani commentary on that subject.

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washingtonpost.com: Pakistan pundit on Kerry

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Winthrop, Maine: Why is there so little coverage of the claim by Pakistan that the U.S. "leaked", for political purposes I assume, information about the capture of a key al Qaeda member that had been turned by the Pakistani authorities. This action is so severe it approaches real, Consitutional Treason with a capital T. Destroying a key asset in an intelligence operation during war time is about as Treasonous as it gets, and to do so for political reasons should get you a firing squad date ASAP. Why is the press so reluctant to explore what should be THE Major story of the day. The story should be even more important because this is the second time the Bush administration has damaged our war effort for political gain, the last time by outing a key CIA Agent. Did Robert Novak break this story as well?

Jefferson Morley: There hasn't been much follow-up to that story either domestically or internationally. Only the Asia Times, a smart Hong Kong-based site, has picked up on it.

Why? Politics may be a factor but the bigger reason I suspect is that the story comes from an unnamed source who other reporters don't have access to.

Personally, I know one of the reporters who did the story and I find him and the story to be quite credible.

The story originally appeared in the U.S. weekly, the New Republic. Here are links to the New Republic and the Asia Times stories.

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washingtonpost.com: The New Republic on the politics of terrorism arrests

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washingtonpost.com: Asia Times picks up the New Republic story

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Alexandria, Va.: Looking at American vs. international press coverage of an event, it seems as though American media relies more heavily upon "official" sources (basically, administration viewpoints and agencies supporting the executive). In the mainstream American press, I believe this is problematic due to the "spin" that a sitting administration can place on events. There should be less of a reliance on "official accounts and statements" and more in-depth, independent and investigative reporting, which is more prevalent in many international press outlets. Your thoughts? Thank you.

Jefferson Morley: I think you have touched on the heart of the problem: American news outlets, especially those based in Washington, depend a great deal on Executive Branch sources. For reporters covering executive branch agencies this is inevitable and not necessarily a bad thing. But if the perspective of these sources is not balanced with that of independent outside sources, the credibility of the reporting can suffer. As Howard Kurtz's recent story on the Post's coverage of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction showed, the Post collectively relied too much on such sources and its coverage was deficient as a result.

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Gloucester, Mass,: Is the U.S. supporting the opposition to Chavez or not? Why is this not headline news, if the answer is yes?

Jefferson Morley: The U.S. government has made clear its antipathy to Chavez. Despite a professed commitment to supporting democracy in Latin America, the Bush administration embraced a military coup against Chavez in 2002 and barely veiled its support for the opposition in the recall effort.

At a practical level, the National Democratic Institute, a government-funded organization, has been active in Venezuela. The NDI tries hard to convey the impression that it does not play favorites in Venezuelan politics.

Take a look at NDI's description of its activities in Venezuela.

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washingtonpost.com: National Democratic Institute in Venezuela

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Louisville, Colo.: Do you think the American press is doing a good job covering the Venezuelan crisis? I don't hear much about it.

Jefferson Morley: The television coverage has been spotty at best.

A peaceful election in which a candidate critical of the Bush administration wins by a win margin probably won't get overexposed on Fox News or CNN.

The print coverage has been good in my view. The Los Angeles Times's Ken Silverstein got an exclusive interview with Chavez that is worth reading.

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washingtonpost.com: Los Angeles Times interview with Chavez

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Woodbridge, Va.: How do you decide which questions to answer? I have noticed for the past couple of weeks that "Arlington" gets in just about every one of these forums and it is always a question about Kerry's Vietnam war record. I personally think "Arlington" is probably Karl Rove, but why does his question always get on these discussions? Is it just coincidence?

Jefferson Morley: I decide to answer questions based on what I think reader's interest is.

I answered the question from "Arlington" so that I could make clear I think his premise is off-base.

So not its not "just coincidence"

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Caracas, Venezuela: Dear Sirs.

I am a Venezuelan citizen who vote yesterday in the middle of big lines. I just want to let you know that all exit polls results until Sunday midnight were around 60 percent SI (YES) and 40 percent NO. We are claiming for count the papers printed by voting machine in order to compare to the voting acts and to check if there is not something wrong with the algorithms that chance our vote intention.

We are requesting to OEA and Carter Center help to obtain the possibility of count the votes manually.

Regards,

Militza Lobaton

Jefferson Morley: Thanks for your information.

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Washington, D.C.:
How come the Washington Post didn't report that the Venezuelan opposition reneged on its commitment to abide by the results of the referendum if it was validated by the international observers? The New York Times reported it. How come the Post didn't report on Carter's criticism of the opposition for not accepting the results? The New York Times reported it.

Jefferson Morley: The short answer is "don't know" and "don't know."

I thought the Times coverage was better for including that information.

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Louisville, Colo.: Do you think that Mr. Chavez is really trying to develop a communist Cuba-style system in Venezuela?

Jefferson Morley: No. The Cuban model could not be imposed on Venezuelan society. Venezuela's press is quite free. From a my perspective, it often seems biased against Chavez.

I do think Chavez is seeking to institutionalize a political preference for the poor into the Venezuelan government. I think he will use or discard the traditional mechanisms of parliamentary depending on whether they advance that goal.

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Fairfax, Va.: The NDI may be anti-Chavez, but at least you could point out the fact that Chavez has had Cuban "consultants" -- thousands of them -- running around Venezuela bolstering Chavez's political machine.

Jefferson Morley: I would be glad to point out that fact. Chavez has welcomed Cuban doctors and others to work among the poor in Venezuela. This has social benefits for his supporters and political benefits for himself.

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Caracas, Venezuela: I have heard rumors about a possible U.S. invasion to Venezuela, like happened in Panama in the 90's. Do you believe this?

Jefferson Morley: No.

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Washington, D.C.: There have been reports from Najaf that the U.S.-supported Iraqi police are intimidating journalists to leave the city. A reporter from the Independent even reported that the local police chief threatened to put snipers on rooftops to shoot any journalist who veered out of his hotel. Why is this story being ignored by the American media?

Jefferson Morley: I don't know. I would very surprised if this story doesn't get covered by the Post and other U.S. news outlets.

Here's a link to The Guardian's story on the expulsion of journalists.

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washingtonpost.com: The Guardian

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New York, N.Y.: A few months ago, a friend and I were touring Pompeii in southern Italy. There was a group of school children in front of us. One of them heard us talking, turned around and in an Italian accent said "Americans?" When I said yes, he started screaming "-%- Bush! -%- America!" We were floored as the rest of the kids joined in and the teachers just sort of smirked. Is this what our country has come to?

Jefferson Morley: Yes, though most Europeans are more polite than those schoolchildren.

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Jefferson Morley: We are out of time. Tune in again next Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Anyone who like to be put on an email list to receive World Opinion Roundup via email, please send a message to jeff.morley@wpni.com and put SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

Your address will not be used for any other purpose.

Cheers, Jeff

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