Jonathan Rugman

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Jonathan Rugman is foreign affairs correspondent for Channel 4 News. The Channel 4 website says, "Jonathan's beat includes foreign policy, terrorism and international development."[1]

Previously he was C4's Washington correspondent, covering the US elections and Hurricane Katrina.[2]

Demonizing Venezuela

On 27 March 2006, Jonathan Rugman presented "Hugo to go?" on Channel 4 News, wherein he relentlessly smeared Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president, in a piece described by John Pilger as "one of the worst, most distorted pieces of journalism I have ever seen".[3] Media Lens summarized the piece:

Rugman's film [...] showed footage of Chávez with Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein and Qadaffi. Rugman's voiceover, strident and dramatic, hammered home the point:
"He supplies 15 per cent of America's oil, yet America's enemies are his friends. Hugo Chávez, in danger of joining a rogue's gallery of dictators and despots - Washington's latest Latin nightmare".
The film repeatedly depicted Chávez as a dictatorial menace, referring to his "personality cult" and to factories run as "Soviet-style collectives". Rugman asked:
"Is Chávez on the way to becoming a dictator?"
[. . .] Rugman interviewed Maria Corina Machado, describing her as a "civil rights activist". In fact she is a leader of Sumate, an extreme right organisation that was deeply involved in a 2002 coup that temporarily ousted Chávez[...] In a March 23 report Rugman again described Machado as a "civil rights activist", citing her as the source for his claim that "government critics" are "fearing another Zimbabwe here". [4]

John Pilger sent a letter to Channel 4 News complaining of Rugman's report, in which he said:

This was a piece seemingly written by the US State Department, although Channel 4's Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, appeared on screen. It was one of the worst, most distorted pieces of journalism I have ever seen, qualifying as crude propaganda. I have been in Venezuela lately and almost nothing in Rugman's rant coincides with reality. Factories are like 'Soviet collectives'; a dictatorship is on the rise; Chávez is like Hitler (Rumsfeld); and the media is under government attack. The inversion of the truth throughout this travesty is demonstrated in the 'coverage' of a cowed media. Venezuela is a country in which 95 per cent of the press and TV and radio are owned by the far-right, who mount unrelenting daily attacks on the government unhindered. The Latin American Murdoch, Cisneros, unfettered, controls much of it. Indeed, it is probably the most concentrated, reactionary media on earth - but that was not worthy of a single word from Rugman.[5]

John Pilger writes further in the Comment is Free section of The Guardian:

On March 28 2006 I described here a report broadcast on Channel 4 News the previous night by its Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman. Rugman is pretty typical of television's Washington correspondents; he reports as if embedded, when, in fact, his work is voluntary. What distinguishes him is his reporting from Venezuela. Rugman's brief visit last year to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, produced what I described here as "one of the worst, most distorted pieces of journalism I have ever seen qualifying as crude propaganda". This was a piece, I wrote, "which might as well have been written by the US state department". For example, he described Maria Corina Machado as a "human rights activist". In fact, she was a leader of Sumate, an extreme rightwing organisation, who had been welcomed to the White House by George Bush himself. He caricatured Hugo Chávez as a buffoon dictator. In fact, he is an authentic product of a popular political movement that began in 1989 who has won more democratic elections than any leader on earth. Rugman reported that Chávez was helping Iran develop a nuclear weapon. In fact, this is laughable - see the US National Intelligence Estimate report published on December 3 2007. At the end of his performance, Rugman complained dramatically to the camera that he had been "held for 30 hours" by police in Caracas. In fact, he had walked into a military base and, surprise, surprise, was apprehended - as he would be on any Ministry of Defence establishment in Britain - and Venezuela is a country whose president two years earlier had been temporarily overthrown in a military coup. In fact, Chávez himself arranged for Rugman's speedy release. Rugman's "report" was so absurd that Channel 4 News, which maintains a reputation, was inundated with complaints and, as I was told, "embarrassed" - though not embarrassed enough to desist from sending Rugman back to Venezuela for yesterday's important constitutional referendum.[6]

References

  1. People: Jonathan Rugman, Channel 4 site, accessed 25 Jan 2010
  2. Biography: Jonathan Rugman, Channel 4 website, accessed 25 Jan 2010
  3. John Pilger, Email to Channel 4 News, copied to Media Lens, March 27, 2006, reproduced at Cartoon Time - Channel 4 Smears Chavez, Media Lens, 5 April 2006, accessed 25 Jan 2010.
  4. Cartoon Time - Channel 4 Smears Chavez, Media Lens, 5 April 2006, accessed 25 Jan 2010.
  5. John Pilger, Email to Channel 4 News, copied to Media Lens, March 27, 2006, reproduced at Cartoon Time - Channel 4 Smears Chavez, Media Lens, 5 April 2006, accessed 25 Jan 2010.
  6. John Pilger, Keep the record straight, The Guardian, 4 December 2007, accessed 25 Jan 2010.
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