- 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

The Reporters Without Borders Fraud
by Salim Lamrani
May 13, 2005

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 matters.

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 and Venezuela.

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. (3)

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. (6)

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. (7)

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. (11)

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 elected president?

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).

(9) Ibid.

(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).
(14) Ibid.

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 a Pentagon
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, the
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 for anything.

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.

Reporters 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" Chavez.

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 been targeting
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." That sunny
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 fighters.


Diana Barahona was an elections observer in El Salvador and Venezuela in 2004. She is studying journalism in California.



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