- The Reporters Without Borders Fraud, by Salim Lamrani |May 13, 2005
- Government Funds Color Press Group's Objectivity by Diana
Barahona, Guild Reporter| March 11, 2005
Reporters Without Borders Fraud
ZNet | Venezuela
[This article deals only marginally with Haiti, but it is crucial to
understand the context of RSF's anti Lavalas bias and their reporting
on Haiti that has been severely lacking in objectivity. D. Esser]
The strong suspicions that have surrounded the dubious and partisan
activities of Reporters without Boarders (RSF) were not unfounded. For
many years, various critics have denounced the largely political actions
of the Parisian entity, particularly with regards to Cuba and Venezuela,
whose characteristics that utilizes propaganda is obvious. The positions
of RSF against the governments of Havana and Caracas are found in perfect
correlation with the political and media war that Washington carries
out against the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutionaries.
Finally the truth has come to light. Mr. Robert Ménard, secretary
general of the RSF for twenty years, has confessed to receiving financing
from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an organization that
depends on the U.S. Department of State, whose principal role is to
promote the agenda of the White House for the entire world. Ménard
was indeed very clear. “We indeed receive money from the NED.
And that hasn’t posed any problem.” (1)
Former U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, created the National Endowment
for Democracy (NED) in 1983, during a period in which military violence
took the place of traditional diplomacy in order to resolve international
Thanks to its powerful ability of financial penetration, the NED’s
goal is to weaken governments that would oppose the foreign hegemonic
power of Washington. (2) In Latin America, the two targets are Cuba
For example, the NED financed and continues financing the Venezuelan
opposition, responsible for the coup d’état against President
Chávez, April 2002. Since then, the Venezuelan oligarchy has
organized, with the help of Washington, several unsuccessful destabilization
attempts, since the failure of the recall referendum, the popular legitimacy
of Mr. Chávez has been only reinforced. In 2004, thirteen groups
opposed to the Bolivarian government received 874,384 dollars from the
NED. In 2003, 15 splinter groups opposed to the Venezuelan presidents
benefited from subsidies from the NED for a total of 1,046,323 dollars.
At the same time, RSF has regularly whipped the government of Mr. Chávez,
for example, accusing him of threatening the freedom of the press in
a report that criticizes a law reform proposal about the broadcast media.
(4) This reform proposes criminal punishment against broadcast media
guilty of criminal activities such as the initiation of an armed uprising
or subversion. This new legislation is an answer to the role of capital
and makes it a criminal offense for those who operated the private information
media during the fascist coupe of 2002 against the Venezuelan president,
and their real outrages. Outrages that the RSF refrains from denouncing.
But the enemy par excellence for RSF continues being Cuba. The unceasing
repetition of Mr. Ménard is almost obsessive, as the new propaganda
campaign against the island shows, bound to cause harm to tourism. (5)
The Bush Plan against Cuba must not be forgotten, which allocates a
budget of five million dollars for the NGO’s who carry out activities
looking for methods to discourage tourists from visiting Cuba, and which
also makes an example of a name to follow, Reporters without Borders.
Additionally, RSF admits providing economic help in Cuba to the “families
of the thirty jailed journalists so that they can face the loss of income
caused by the arrest of their family members.” If the ideological
rhetoric of this sentence is suppressed, it reads that the RSF remunerates
the families of the jailed people by receiving a salary from the Bush
government, seriously threatening the integrity of the Cuban nation
by collaborating with the development of economic sanctions. Given that
Mr. Ménard received economic rewards from the United States government,
it is the same as saying that Washington, directly financing from afar,
also finances, by means of the RSF, people who are at their service
in Cuba, which constitutes of course a serious violation of Cuban law.
According to the 2004 annual report from the RSF, “at last 53
information professionals lost their lives in the practice of their
jobs or for expressing their opinions.” Iraq is, according to
this report, the most dangerous country for journalism with 19 reporters
murdered. The U.S. Army, who has occupied Iraq since 2003, is responsible
for these murders, since they control the country. However, the RSF,
far from accusing the U.S. authorities, limits itself to once again
taking up the official statement from Washington and describes the shots,
which caused the deaths of the various journalists, as “accidental.”
However, Iraq is not a priority for Mr. Ménard. (8)
On the American continent, according to the RSF, “twelve journalists
lost their lives” in Mexico, in Brazil, and in Peru. Nevertheless,
the target of the Parisian organization is again Cuba where, it has
to be emphasized that not one journalist has been murdered since 1959.
Venezuela is also found in the line of sight while no journalist there
has lost their life. There are those who have established a relationship
between the targets of the RSF and those from Washington and pointed
out the strange coincidence. (9) The reprimands from the Secretary of
State, Ms. Condoleeza Rice, were specifically destined towards Mr. Castro
and Mr. Chavez, whose growing closeness concerns the United States a
lot. (10) Of course it’s not just a matter of personalities (Fidel
and Chavez), its the Cuban and Venezuelan societies’ programs
in favor of the poor which are being attacked.
Likewise, it is well-known that Mr. Ménard frequently visits
the extreme Cuban right in Miami with which he has signed agreements
relative to the media war carried out against the Cuban Revolution.
The financing of the RSF also raises some important questions. How can
an organization that depends economically on the FNAC, the CFAO, Hewlett
Packard Foundation from France, the Hachette Foundation, the EDF Foundation,
the Bank of Deposits and Consignments (la Caja de Depósitos y
Consignaciones), the Open Society Institution, the Royal Foundation
Network, Sanofi-Synthelabo (now Sanofi-Aventis), Atlas Publications,
Color Club, Globenet, and Cadena Ser be independent? How can an organization
financed by the French state act impartially? It is impossible, and
RSF’s positions supporting the coup d’état against
president Aristide of Haiti shows it very clearly. (12) How can an organization
that expects to defend journalists rejoice at the overthrow of a democratically
The budget for RSF for 2003 was up to 3,472,122 euros. According to
annual accounts the revenue came from: 11% from the State, 12% from
patrons, 4% from contributions and donations, 15% from the European
Commission, 10% from operations, and 48% from the organization’s
publications. This last figure is surprising for its importance. The
sum of 1,984,853 euros supposedly came from only the sale of calendars.
(13) The calendar costs 8 euros, which is the same as saying that the
RSF manages to sell more then 249,106 calendars per year, or 680 calendars
every day! This figure is much too excessive to be credible.
When expenses are looked at for 2003, the accounts show that only 7%
of the budget is allocated to direct help for journalists with problems.(14)
What happens with the remaining 93% of the budget? It is devoted to
the job of propaganda and disinformation at the service of the interests
of those who finance Reporters without Borders, namely the French state,
and the large economic and financial groups, the extreme Cuban right
from Florida and the U.S. Department of State.
“Defense of freedom of the press” is only a facade. Reporters
without Borders is at the service of governments and the powerful economic
and financial interests. It is the reason why the main threat to freedom
of the press, the concentration of the means of information, has never
been denounced by Mr. Ménard’s organization. It is the
reason by which the RSF, among others, never has been interested in
the luck of Mr. Mumia Abu-Jamal, the U. S. journalist jailed for over
twenty years for his writings and his political positions.
Unfortunately, the collusion between Mr. Ménard, the large press,
and financial capital hinders citizens from discovering the real objectives
that they hide behind a humanitarian smokescreen.
(1) Robert Ménard, « Forum de discussion avec Robert Ménard
», Le Nouvel Observateur, 18 de abril de 2005. www.nouvelobs.com/forum/archives/forum_284.html
(sitio consultado el 22 de abril de 2005).
(2) National Endowment for Democracy, « About Us ». www.ned.org/about/about.html
(sitio consultado el 27 de abril de 2005).
(3) National Endowment for Democracy, « NED Venezuela Programs
». www.ned.org/grants/venezuelaFacts.html (sitio consultado el
27 de abril de 2005).
(4) Reporters sans frontières, « Reporters sans frontières
dénonce une régression de la liberté de la presse
», 26 de noviembre de 2004. www.rsf.org/article.php3id_article=12968
(sitio consultado el 27 de abril de 2005).
(5) Reporters sans frontières, « Deux ans après
le « printemps noir » : urgence humanitaire pour 21 journalistes
emprisonnés », 16 mars 2005. www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=12882
(sitio consultado el 27 de abril de 2005).
(6) Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington:
United States Department of State, mayo de 2004). www.state.gov/documents/organization/32334.pdf
(sitio consultado el 7 de mayo de 2004), p. 20.
(7) Reporters sans frontières, « Aides apportées
aux journalistes emprisonnés et aux médias en difficulté
», 2004. www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=7581 (sitio consultado
el 23 de abril de 2005).
(8) Reporters sans frontières, « Bilan 2004. L’année
la plus meurtrière depuis dix ans : 53 journalistes tués
», 2005. www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=12232 (sitio consultado
el 23 de abril de 2005).
(10) El Nuevo Herald, « Castro y Chávez llaman a una alianza
contra EEUU », 30 de abril de 2005.
(11) Salim Lamrani, Cuba face à l’Empire : Propagande,
guerre économique et terrorisme d’Etat (Outremont, Lanctôt,
2005), capítulo VI.
(12) Reporters sans frontières, « La liberté de
la presse retrouvée : un espoir à entretenir »,
julio de 2004. www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=10888 (sitio consultado
el 23 de abril de 2005).
(13) Reporters sans frontières, « Comptes de Reporters
sans frontières 2003 », 2004. www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=10589
(sitio consultado el 27 de abril de 2005).
GOVERNMENT FUNDS COLOR PRESS
THE GUILD REPORTER
March 11, 2005
Over the past year, U.S. news stories about press freedom increasingly
have cited the work of a Paris-based organization, Reporters Without
Borders (Reporters sans Fronti?res, or RSF). Indeed, despite its small
size and lack of high-profile principals,
Reporters Without Borders has achieved nearly the same name-recognition
as the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which can boast
of having Walter
Cronkite, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw on its board of directors.
To be sure, RSF has embraced many causes near and dear to American journalists.
For example, it was among the more outspoken organizations demanding
investigation of the shelling of the Hotel Palestine, in which two journalists
were inexplicably killed.
More recently, it has lambasted federal prosecutors for targeting Judith
Miller, Matthew Cooper and other journalists in an effort to force them
to disclose their sources.
But RSF, unlike the CPJ, is heavily funded by government grants, raising
questions about its objectivity.
And a closer examination of the battles RSF wages and those it ignores?strongly
suggests a political agenda colored by its choice of patrons. Unfortunately,
organization appears unwilling to address such concerns: RSF's New York
representative, Tala Dowlatshahi, terminated a telephone interview when
asked if the organization had applied last year for any U.S. government
grants other than
one received from the National Endowment for Democracy.
Most notable, perhaps, is the group's obvious political bias in its
reporting on Haiti. RSF expressed its support for the Feb. 29, 2004,
Franco-American overthrow of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
at the same time that it received 11% of its budget from the French
government (??397,604, or approximately $465,200 in 2003).
According to Haiti-based journalist and documentary film-maker Kevin
Pina, the organization selectively documented attacks on opposition
radio stations while
ignoring other attacks on journalists and broadcasters to create the
impression of state-sponsored violence against Aristide's opponents.
RSF blamed Aristide for the unsolved murders of two journalists, calling
him a "predator of press freedom," then celebrated his departure
in a July 2004
article headlined, "Press freedom returns: a gain to be nurtured."
"A new wind of freedom is blowing for the capital's radio stations,"
it proclaimed, adding that Aristide?who had no army?was planning a "scorched-earth
ending" to the crisis that began when 300 paramilitaries armed
with M-16s invaded from the Dominican Republic.
But RSF fell silent in the bloody aftermath of the coup, even in the
face of continued attacks on journalists. For example, the police killing
of radio reporter Abdias Jean in a Port-au-Prince slum this January
went unnoticed by the group, as did an attack
on journalist Raoul Saint-Louis, who was shot this February after receiving
death threats and who is now in hiding. In fact, unlike its sustained
campaign against Aristide, RSF doesn't blame the current government
Pina claims the stories told in the press about Aristide losing support
and using gangs to hold onto power were a manipulation designed by a
U.S. State Department-created opposition and by the national and international
media. The story the media and RSF refused to show is one of a hugely
popular president and a citizenry that wanted him to finish his term.
Opponents of Aristide staged demonstrations which the media dutifully
covered while ignoring the much larger pro-Aristide marches; at the
same time, the country's largest political movement, LAVALAS, was portrayed
as a violent mob.
Without Borders also has gone after Venezuelan President Hugo Ch?vez
for allegedly threatening the private media.
The conflict between the Ch?vez administration and the media goes back
to before April, 2002, when Venezuela's four private television stations
actively aided and abetted a military coup against thegovernment. On
the night of the coup, following months of broadcasting anti-Ch?vez
speeches and calling for a "transitional government," media
mogul Gustavo Cisneros's station hosted meetings among
the plotters?including would-be dictator Pedro Carmona.
The president of Venezuela's broadcasting association signed the decree
dissolving the national assembly, and for the next two days the stations
blacked out information about the kidnapped president or the retaking
of the presidential palace by loyal troops backed by hundreds of thousands
of supporters in the streets. No television owners or managers have
been prosecuted or lost their broadcasting licenses; nevertheless, RSF
continues to side with the private media against the "authoritarian"
On November 26, 2004, RSF issued a report critical of a proposed media
reform bill in Venezuela's National Assembly ("Reporters Without
Borders criticizes new law threatening press freedom"). Coincidentally
or not, the report came just two weeks after RSF had applied for a grant
from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy.
Although the NED ostensibly is a private agency, its money is appropriated
by Congress and controlled by the State Department. Human rights lawyer
Eva Golinger has documented more than $20 million given by the NED and
USAID to opposition groups and private media in Venezuela, many of them
headed by coup participants.
The NED granted RSF nearly $40,000 in January. Although the rights group
has criticized Chavez since the time of the 2002 coup well before the
grant its application for money from a U.S. government agency that has
the Venezuelan president for regime change raises questions about RSF's
independence, as well as its willingness to criticize its benefactors.
That brings us to Iraq and RSF's 2004 report on the invasion and its
aftermath, which is rambling and contradictory. It reports, for example,
that the overthrow of Hussein "opened a new era of freedom . .
. for Iraqi journalists;" meanwhile, the International News Safety
Institute reports that 44 Iraqi journalists and support staff have died
covering the conflict since it began two years ago. Similarly, the RSF
asserts that the bombing of the Ministry of Information?a war crime
under the Geneva Conventions? "[ended] decades of zero press freedom."
assessment is followed by 11 pages detailing journalists killed, wounded,
missing and imprisoned.
To its credit, the report doesn't whitewash the killing by U.S. forces
of five foreign journalists or missile attacks by the U.S. on Al-Jazeera
and Abu Dhabi TV. But these and other attacks on the press in Iraq,
such as the closing of Al-Jazeera, apparently
haven't hurt too badly the United States' position in RSF's ranking
of countries by press freedom, currently a reasonably respectable 17th.
By comparison, Venezuela is way down the list at number 77.
And a telling example of how RSF mutes its criticisms of U.S. policies
is the way it has responded to the abduction of Al-Jazeera cameraman
Sami Al-Haj. Al Haj disappeared in December 2001, while on assignment
in Afghanistan , and ended up in the U.S. concentration camp in Guantanamo
, where he remains to this day. Not
only has Al-Haj disappeared physically, he has all but disappeared from
the RSF web site, where he is mentioned only once in a January 27 press
release about Al-Jazeera. By contrast, RSF routinely wages high-profile
campaigns on behalf of European journalists kidnapped by Iraqi resistance
Diana Barahona was an elections observer in El Salvador and Venezuela
in 2004. She is studying journalism in California.