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  • Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

    Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 November 2017
Ken Roth wrote in 2015, “For all its faults, the U.S. government remains the world’s most powerful proponent of human rights.”

If Reuters reported what the temperature was in Caracas on a given day I would not expect them to cite a source, but when you report sweeping claims about the Venezuelan government’s human rights record then citing a source and making an effort to assess its bias should be a standard journalistic procedure.

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This Reuters article reports on the latest attack on Venezuela’s government by Human Rights Watch. The head of HRW, Ken Roth, wrote in 2015, “For all its faults, the U.S. government remains the world’s most powerful proponent of human rights.”

It’s such a wild statement, that even a significant percentage of the misinformed U.S. public would likely scoff at it. According to Pew Research, a “non-partisan” outfit funded primarily by one of the wealthiest foundations in the United States (so hardly an anti-establishment group) only 20 percent of the U.S. public trust the U.S. government to “do what is right” most of the time. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of U.S. citizens have absolutely no idea of the death toll from U.S. foreign policy. In the case of Ken Roth, he most likely knows but dismisses hundreds of thousands of victims of U.S. aggression over the last two decades alone because of his quasi-religious devotion the U.S. empire – quite common among liberal elites notwithstanding their distaste for the likes of Trump.

That explains why Canada’s Liberal government can eagerly join forces with a widely-loathed president like Donald Trump in targeting Venezuela’s democratically-elected government. In 2004, another Liberal government in Canada joined forces with another despised U.S. president at the time, George W. Bush, to kidnap Haiti’s democratically-elected president and install a brutal dictator who ruled for two years. The silence and complicity of the international media and NGOs like HRW was crucial to the success of that crime.

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Would Reuters cite a group about the human rights situation in Venezuela that claimed Nicolas Maduro’s government is “the world’s most powerful proponent of human rights”? If such a group were cited at all, which is extremely improbable, its pro-Venezuelan government bias would be loudly flagged to readers: “the pro-government group X says.” Reuters would not content itself with saying “the U.S. government has said that group X is biased."

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However, in the article about the latest Human Rights Watch report on Venezuela, Reuters “balances” its article as follows: "Maduro’s government says Human Rights Watch is in league with a Washington-funded conspiracy to sabotage socialism in Latin America. Rights activists are in league with the opposition and compliant foreign media, officials say, and downplay opposition violence, including setting a man on fire during a demonstration and targeting police with explosives."

If Reuters were interested, it could easily quote critics of HRW who have not been regularly demonized by the corporate media for almost two decades.

In May of 2014, this petition was sent to Ken Roth by over one hundred scholars including Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire; former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Hans von Sponeck; and former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk. The letter protested HRW’s revolving door with the U.S. government.

In a subsequent exchange with HRW, Keane Bhatt had to explain to HRW, among other things, why having a former CIA official like Michael Diaz on its advisory board for years was not good. Diaz went from the CIA to HRW and then back to the U.S. government as “an interlocutor between the intelligence community and non-government experts.”

In calling the United States “the world’s most powerful proponent of human rights”, Roth cast the world’s most dangerous and aggressive state as a human rights champion. It’s the kind of statement that would make a source radioactive to the western media if it had been said about a U.S. enemy. It appears journalists at Reuters either share Roth’s devotion to the U.S. empire or dare not publicly say otherwise.

First published in Z Blogs on Nov. 29, 2017.

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