National Press Club Pulls Plug on Venezuelan Students Panel — Under Pressure by the Hugo Chavez Government

By Mick Gregory

This is a bleak report from a citizen journalism blog,

It shows how much the U.S. press is in bed with socialists such as Hugo Chavez. For those who are just learning about the extreme left leaning bias of America’s mainstream media, it must be chilling. In fact, it shows why the Democrats want to bring back the FDR “Fairness Doctrine.”

Read the Press Club’s excuse; it would have been a one-sided panel; we would want representation from the other side.

That’s how the Fairness Doctrine stopped free speach in the U.S. for 50 years and helped prolong the Soviet Union’s iron curtain.

Until Thursday, the National Press Club’s calendar had listed a “Newsmakers” event for Friday on human rights in Venezuela. The panelists were set and the club’s Newsmakers Committee had agreed to put up $4,700 for the group, Venezuelan Students Abroad/Washington, D.C., to stage the event.

But the night before, the event was listed as canceled. Organizers of the event are crying foul, accusing the Press Club of stifling free speech, of all things. For its part, club brass says promoting such unbalanced panels is not the way they typically do business.

Carla Bastillos, one of the organizers, said the Newsmakers Committee invited her group “to highlight the student movement and hear from a student leader from Venezuela.”

But she said once the Venezuelan Embassy caught wind of the event, it expressed its concern to the club about not being included. On Thursday, the students received a call from Everett Bauman, a club member who has reported from Venezuela for the El Universal news service and who helped them put together the event. Bauman told them their financial support had been pulled.

Bastillos said it now appears that the Venezuelan government’s policy of “crushing freedom of expression has now been sanctioned by the National Press Club. We don’t want to create controversy … just get an explanation.”

For his part, Bauman said he thinks pressure from the embassy was to blame “in good part” for the club’s decision. He said club President Jerry Zremski told him he was “under pressure from the Venezuelan government because they wanted a level playing field and equal time,” which didn’t sit well with Bauman because Venezuelan officials have appeared at the club without the students.

Reached on Friday, Zremski said, “If I had known the details of this event [earlier], I would have wanted it postponed even if the embassy had not complained.”

He said Newsmakers events typically involve one person standing up to give their views, but this event was promoted as a panel discussion.

“If we’re going to have a panel discussion, we want balance,” he said. He added that the club isn’t impeding freedom of expression at all, but “if we’re putting together a forum, it should be an objective forum.”

The embassy did not respond to a request for comment.


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