Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal, a prominent journalistic critic of US policy toward Venezuela, was arrested by DC police on Friday, October 25, in connection with a protest at the Venezuelan embassy, and held incommunicado. But if you rely on corporate media, or even leading “press freedom” groups, you haven’t heard about this troubling encroachment on freedom of the press.
Blumenthal is a bestselling author whose work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, CJR, The Nation and Salon. DC police arrested him at his home on a five-month-old arrest warrant, charging him with simple assault for his attempt to deliver food to the besieged Venezuelan embassy; he was held for two days, and for the first 36 hours was not allowed to speak with a lawyer. (In an interview with FAIR, Blumenthal noted that keeping arrestees—generally poor and African-American—from speaking with lawyers or family is par for the course in the DC criminal justice system.) As of this writing, there has been no mention of Blumenthal’s arrest in outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post and Reuters that constantly publish Venezuela-related content, or by the big “press freedom” NGOs.
When freelance US journalist Cody Weddle was detained in Venezuela for 12 hours, it made headlines in the New York Times (3/6/19), Washington Post(3/6/19), Miami Herald (3/6/19), USA Today (3/6/19), Guardian (3/6/19), UK Telegraph(3/6/19), NPR (3/10/19), ABC (3/9/19) and Reuters (3/7/19). That’s not exhaustive, but you get the picture.
In Weddle’s case, the human rights industry also responded immediately. Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch tweeted about Cody Weddle’s detention, as did Reporters without Borders (RSF). The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also put out a statement immediately (3/6/19). There has been nothing from them about Blumenthal.
Nobody should have a problem with Weddle’s arrest or Ramos’ detention getting the widespread attention they did. (The content in the reports about Venezuela is a separate issue.) What should anger anybody who isn’t consumed with hypocrisy is the point Ben Norton, writing in Grayzone (10/28/19), made about Blumenthal’s arrest:
If this had happened to a journalist in Venezuela, every Western human rights NGO and news wire would be howling about Maduro’s authoritarianism. It will be revealing to see how these same elements react to a clear-cut case of political repression in their own backyard.
Blumenthal’s arrest is another example of the legal harassment of US government critics, including WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and whistleblower Chelsea Manning–whose plights have similarly been neglected by Western media and NGOs that claim to support press freedom (FAIR.org, 11/3/18, 4/1/19).