For some time it has been apparent that President Hugo Chavez – the democratically elected President of Venezuela – and his government have been on the
To remedy the democratic problem that
Considering the miserable state of affairs of the
While it has been well reported in the progressive media that the NED-linked media watchdog Reporters Without Borders  has been at the forefront of recent efforts to de-legitimize Venezuela’s media policies,  this same progressive media has for the most part overlooked the role of similarly ‘democratic’ human rights groups in facilitating such attacks. Noteworthy exceptions to this trend include two recent articles written by Greg Grandin  and Gregory Wilpert respectively: the latter of whom notes that is “very disappointing to see international human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, the Washington Office on Latin America, the Carter Center, and the Committee to Protect Journalists condemn the [Venezuelan] government’s decision” to revoke RCTV’s license.  (For further details on the close links that exist between the NED and these human rights groups see Hijacking Human Rights). 
The focus of this article, however, will not be on such ‘human rights’ groups or on dubious activities of Reporters Without Borders, but in contrast to previous articles this article will draw attention to the ‘democratic’ activities of a little mentioned South American media watchdog which goes by the name of the Instituto De Prensa Y Sociedad. 
The Instituto De Prensa Y Sociedad (IPYS) – otherwise known as the Press and Society Institute – was founded in 1993 by Laura Puertas Meyer, and the Institute obtained their first NED grant in 1998 to help them “develop a national network to protect journalists” in Peru. Meyer’s involvement in founding IPYS is particularly noteworthy because he is presently the executive director of the Peruvian chapter of Transparency International, which perhaps not coincidentally is a key global ‘democracy promoting’ organization. IPYS’s linked to Transparency International do not end there, as in 2002 Transparency International’s Americas programme coordinator, Marta Erquicia, joined forces with IPYS to launch an annual award for investigative journalism.  Furthermore, it is significant to observe that George Soros’s  Open Society Institute sponsors the award, and two of the five members of the prizes jury have ‘democratic’ ties: these two judges are Gustavo Gorriti (who is a member of IYPS, has received the ‘democratically’ connected Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award in 1998,  is listed as an individual endorser of the UN Democracy Caucus, and is a member of the Center for Public Integrity’s International Consortium for Investigative Journalism),  and Tina Rosenberg (who serves on The New York Times editorial board, and on the advisory board of the National Security Archive).  Considering all these ‘democratic’ ties it is ironic that the two winners of this Soros-sponsored award in 2006, Tamoa Calzadilla and Laura Weffer, won because of their reporting on the “irregularities in the investigation of the [Danilo] Anderson murder case” – Anderson being the Venezuelan state prosecutor “in charge of identifying those responsible of [the] failed  coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.” 
The current executive director of IPYS Peru is Ricardo Uceda, a reporter who formerly “directed the newsweekly Si, and ran the El Comercio’s investigative unit”. It is significant to note that in 1993 – while working for Si – Uceda was awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award.  Again perhaps not coincidentally, two of the four other winners of the International Press Freedom Award in 1993 have ‘democratic’ ties, these being, Doan Viet Hoat (who was the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial’s 1995 Human Rights Award, and is a director of the World Press Freedom Committee – a group that describes its original purpose as “oppos[ing] proposals for a restrictive new world information and communication order”)  and Veran Matic (who in 1993 was working for Radio B92 in Yugoslavia – a station that received a grant from the NED in 1991, and continued to receive support throughout the 1990s from ‘democracy promoting’ organizations intent on ousting Slobodan Milosevic). 
IPYS Peru can boast other ‘democratic’ links as they have worked alongside the NED-funded Association for Civil Rights, an Argentinean NGO that “was founded in 1995 in
IPYS Peru obtained renewed NED support to continue their work protected press freedom in
However, perhaps most significantly, today – that is, on September 18, 2007 – IPYS Venezuela received the NED’s coveted Democracy Award.  As their website notes, the NED’s Democracy Award is given annually “to recognize the courageous and creative work of individuals and organizations that has advanced the cause of human rights and democracy around the world.” This year however, instead of judging the work of an assortment of democracy activists, the Democracy Award aimed to spotlight the work of press freedom activists from around the world. Four awards were given this year, so in addition to IPYS obtaining the award, three other individuals were awarded the NED’s Democracy Award: these three journalists were Anna Politkovskaya (the Russian journalist who was murdered in October 2006, and was formerly the 2005 recipient of the ‘democratic’ Civil Courage Prize),  Hisham Kassem (who is “[o]ne of Egypt’s most prominent publishers and democracy activists”, and has served as chairman of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights – a group that received six NED grants between 1994 and 2003), and Kavi Chongkittavorn (who is the assistant group editor of Nation Media Group, a member of the steering committee of the NED-created World Movement for Democracy,  and chair of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance – a group that since 1999 has received annual NED support for its work in Malaysia).
Here it is significant to note that the three aforementioned media freedom groups – IPYS, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance – are all members of a media network known as the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX). Their affiliation to IFEX is especially noteworthy because 16 of IFEX’s 72 members have received funding from either, the NED, the Westminster Foundation or Rights and Democracy (the NED’s counterpart organisations in the UK and Canada respectively).  Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders, to name just two, are perhaps the most notorious media organisations that can be counted among these 16 ‘democratically’ tied groups.  (A full exposition of IFEX’s ‘democratic’ links will be outlined in my forthcoming article Polyarchy and the Public Sphere.)
Finally, it is also important to point out that Democracy Award winner, Kavi Chongkittavorn, serves on the executive board of the International Press Institute (IPI).  This affiliation is indicative of Chongkittavorn’s ‘democratic’ credentials, as IPI is not only an IFEX member, but this group’s interests have historically been closely aligned with those of American foreign policy elites, as in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the IPI actively opposed UNESCO’s proposed New World Information and Communication Order.  This is significant because in 2000 IPYS was awarded the IPI’s Free Media Pioneer Award: an award which is cosponsored by Freedom Forum, which provides a further clue as to the political nature of the award, as emeritus chair of Freedom House, Bette Bao Lord, is also a trustee of the Freedom Forum. Similarly, Allen H. Neuharth, the founder of Freedom Forum, is also a member of the advisory board of the World Press Freedom Committee.
IPYS Venezuela through it ongoing demonization of Chavez’s media policies is currently fulfilling a vital role in the US-led war on Venezuelan democracy. This should be even more worrisome for progressive activists as the NED notes IPYS “has become an authoritative voice on freedom of expression issues in
First and foremost, to counter the negative influence of the ‘democracy promoting’ establishment on nongovernmental organizations (like IPYS or Human Rights Watch) it is crucial that progressive citizens committed to a participatory democracy work to develop alternate funding mechanisms for sustaining grassroots activism. Then perhaps as James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer (2001) observe in their seminal book, Globalization Unmasked, progressive NGOs and activists will be able to “systematically criticize and critique the ties of their colleagues with imperialism and its local clients, their ideology of adaptation to neoliberalism, and their authoritarian and elitist structures.”  As they go on to note, it is vitally important that progressive NGOs encourage their less progressive counterparts “to get out of the foundation/government networks and go back to organizing and educating their own people in Europe and North America to form socio-political movements that can challenge the dominant regimes and parties that serve the banks and the [Transnational Corporations].” This is certainly no small order, but it is certainly one that will better enable concerned citizens all over the world to promote participatory democracy rather than polyarchy.
Michael Barker is a doctoral candidate at
Indeed, US Department of State documents report that “it is clear that NED, Department of Defense (DOD), and other
Here it is interesting to note that pro-Chavez citizens who led the 2002 counter-coup recognised the integral role of the media in enabling the coup and “targeted the offices of the media, especially television” for their protests. See, Antony Castillo, Breaking Democracy:
International Australia, 108, 2003, p.149.
For a review of all of Reporters Without Borders ‘democratic’ ties see my forthcoming article ‘Reporters For ‘Democracy’, Znet.
 Referring specifically to the role of NED-aided Reporters Without Borders in (mis)reporting on Venezuela, Ignacio Ramonet highlights the importance of the “relevant international organizations” in denigrating the attempts by a democratic government in attempting to limiting the influence of pro-coup forces within their country. Indeed during the 2002 coup, Ramonet wrote that Reporters Without Borders “clos[ed it’s] eyes to the one of the most odious media campaigns ever launched against a democratic government”. Ignacio Ramonet, The perfect crime, Le Monde Diplomatique, June 2002. http://mondediplo.com/2002/06/01edito/
Concerned by the same coverage, Thierry Deronne (2002) suggests that: “The ‘super-objectivity’ displayed by the letters authored by ‘Reporters Without Borders’ gives the [pro-coup] campaign by the commercial media great efficiency in circulating around the world, for example, among other Human Rights organizations who believe ‘Reporters Without Borders’ without question.” Thierry Deronne, The “Distorters Without Borders”, NarcoNews,
Wendy Luers is currently a co-chair of Project on Justice in Times of Transition, and president of the Foundation for a Civil Society, a group that was established in 1990 to support “projects that strengthen the forces of democracy, civil society, the rule of law and a free-market economy in the Czech and Slovak Republic.” Luers’ biography notes that she has worked on numerous other nonprofit boards which include the Fund for Free Expression (now HRW’s Free Expression Project) and Helsinki Watch (now Human Rights Watch), and in the late 1980s she also served as director of special projects at Human Rights Watch. Luers is also a member of the International Rescue Committee’s leadership council on children in armed conflict, and in 1996 she was a member of the presidential delegation (led by Richard C. Holbrooke) to observe the Bosnian election. Interestingly she has also been a cultural correspondent for Venevision Television in Venezuela, a media outlet which played an important role in supporting the attempted 2002 coup in Venezuela. Interestingly, Luer’s husband, William H. Luers, in addition to having many ‘democratic’ links was the US Ambassador to Venezuela from 1978 to 1982, and then to Czechoslovakia from 1983 to 1986. (For references see http://wiki.zmag.org/Project_on_Justice_in_Times_of_Transition)
Similarly, John Pilger castigated both Amnesty International for being wrong in demonizing Chavez concerning the RCTV affair. fanonite.org
 See forthcoming, Michael Barker, Polyarchy and the Public Sphere.
In the late 1970s, UNESCO acknowledged that there were serious problems with the world’s media organisations and took active steps to expand the democratic potential of global media systems, leading to their proposal for a New World Information and Communication Order. This plan suggested the need for a radical departure from (then current) media trends, and recognised that the current domination of media systems by Western states was inherently undemocratic. rfkmemorial.org
 Anthony C. Giffard, UNESCO and the Media (New York: Longman, 1989), p.28.
For more details about the see William
 James Petras, Henry Veltmeyer, Globalization Unmasked: Imperialism in the 21st Century (London, Zed Books, 2001), p.137.