Latin America: How our Media cover it

“I don’t understand…This is not a dictatorship!” says a journalist of The Washington Post when he lands in Venezuela for the first time in 2004. A negative image of the South American country has been imprinted in the collective unconscious since Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999. It was created and has been kept alive by Western media, and yet it is hardly representative of reality. This piece of work provides an analysis of the media coverage of Venezuela by Agence France-Presse. Through the observation of three events, this article tries to determine if the content of dispatches (articles written by a news agency) reflects a political position more than an analysis of facts.

The three events have been chosen considering the impact they had in international media. For each event, hundreds of dispatches have been gathered from the AFP’s news feed. They are, in chronological order:

  • The referendum to dismiss President Hugo Chávez in August 2004
  • The students manifestations in February 2014
  • The general elections in December 2015

A quantitative analysis of the number of dispatches helped establish the coverage frequency of Venezuela in the French Agency. It was compared to a few neighboring countries to observe if the frequencies were different.

This graph shows two interesting tendencies. First of all, Venezuela’s cover is much weaker than Mexico’s and Colombia’s, which means it receives less media attention. Second, the country almost lived a media blackout before Hugo Chávez came to power (1999) and the frequency of dispatches has been decreasing again after his death (2013). Nevertheless, this graphic does not say anything about how the AFP covers the Latino country.

A qualitative analysis permitted to observe if the AFP’s journalists took sides while covering the news in Venezuela. How did they explain the conflict between the two parties? What words did they use to describe the President or the leaders of the opposition? What type of anecdotes did they highlight? Who did they interview the most? In the following graphic, all the quotes from experts, politicians, and citizens were summed up to see who’s speech was given more importance.

The results show that the AFP gave more representation – almost twice as much – to the opposition side in its coverage. It sometimes took disturbing proportions, as during the media cover of the manifestations in 2014. While 22 protesters of the opposition were quoted, only 2 citizens manifesting for Nicolás Maduro were interviewed.
Anyone interested in consulting the complete essay can access it here (in French).