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On the detention of 31 US citizens in Venezuela

By Aleksander Boyd

London 05.04.07 | A couple of days ago I posted a note about the detention of 31 US citizens in Venezuela. Smelling a rat behind it I did what any self respecting blogger would have done: took the phone called Caracas to determine whether or not there was any veracity to the story. The story was confirmed. I deem unnecessary to insult the intelligence of commonsensical readers by spelling out the source of the confirmation. However it is the media's reaction, or lack thereof, what truly shocks me. Mind you since long ago I stopped having any expectations as to the reliability, accuracy and velocity at which Venezuelan issues are reported by international news bureaus based in Caracas, much less by the locals in light of Chavez's Gag Law. But having said that I find appalling that, in spite of the country being in the midst of Semana Santa's Pachanga -which of course touches locals and foreign journos equally- no one seems to think that the detention of the Adventists group is newsworthy.

More preoccupying is the fact that upon confirmation I did send the article to some established names both in orthodox media outlets and the blogosphere. No one reacted to it. I can fully understand that diplomats will not drive this issue to the front of people's attention. As a matter of fact I appreciate the disposition of trying to find a solution to it rather discreetly. But that shouldn't be the case with media types. Whether or not the decision of an army guy -that has internalized the official hatred-toward-USA mantra spewed by Chavez- has merits, the point remains: how often are 31 US citizens or any other foreign nationals for that matter detained in Venezuela? By the silence of the media it would seem to be a regular occurrence, wouldn't it?

Another rather worrying aspect is what could become the norm on dealing with issues in the future. Who determines what's newsworthy and what's not and under which criteria? Who can ascertain that different tests are applied to other news stories? Which issues are per se relevant and which aren't? Has the attention span of journalists become so narrow that they can only keep the eye on one story at any given time?

Not all is lost though, through this I learned that this site is not considered a "reliable" news source, which leads to the conclusion that in this day an age sloppy, mediocre and lazy journalism defines reliability. For instance, I thought that this piece of news (Venezuela in Official Numbers) was an absolute shocker, but then again no "reliable" news source has picked up on it...

To conclude, a bit more of "unreliable" news: the group of detainees is composed by 7th Day Adventists. A source stated that the decision of detaining the group appeared to had been taken by local military that thought odd the increased number of US citizens arriving in the area. High officials of the Chavez regime were, as of early afternoon yesterday, unaware of the situation. Allegedly the group was to be transported in a military plane to Caracas so that they could leave the country without triggering a diplomatic incident.



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