Readers of the New York Times, The Washington Post and of the Associated Press, and viewers of CNN, are fed a dramatically different story. There is an enormous divide between what the world is hearing about Venezuela and what is really happening there. Reporters have so controlled the flow of information and disfigured the truth that their coverage of Venezuela is a caricature of what conservative critics call the "liberal media bias." What we are seeing in media coverage of Venezuela is not liberal bias, but totalitarian bias.
A recent example is Christopher Toothaker of the Associated Press. Mr. Toothaker has spent considerable time in Venezuela, he speaks Spanish, and he has access to government and opposition sources. In a Jan. 4 report, he minimized the importance of the upcoming constitutional referendum, stating that the opposition presented "over 150,000 signatures" to election authorities calling for a vote on whether Mr. Chavez should resign. This is a dramatic and deliberate understatement. The Venezuelan Constitution, approved by Mr. Chavez himself, provides for a referendum if 10 percent of the electorate petitions in writing. The opposition presented 2,057,000 signatures - some 15 percent of the voting rolls - a startling error that any fact-checker should catch. The smaller figure appears in dozens of other Associated Press reports, CBS, CNN and even in a story bylined by Ginger Thompson of the New York Times that was carried in the South Florida Sun-Sentine***