UK's Independent Newspaper Falsifies Venezuela Election Results!

In a big way. For shame, Hannah Baldock. How did you violate the rules? Let us count the ways.
"The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, looked to be losing his grip on power last night as exit polls showed him to be trailing the opposition by almost a million votes."


"The figures were early indications that, for the first time in the country's history, the President may have his term in office cut short by a referendum."


"The mid-morning results showed that the opposition, already boasting an enormous 1,758,000 votes to Chavez's 798,000, is well on its way to reaching the target of 3.76 million votes it needs to oust the authoritarian, left-wing President. Turn-out for the referendum was high, with millions of Venezuelans queuing from the early hours at polling stations all over the oil-rich country to decide the political fate of the firebrand Mr Chavez."

Let's talk about lousy, lazy, yellow journalism, and in a left-leaning paper, too. First, it's a bit early for such predictions, no? Second, it's still 8:15PM on the 15th here in Caracas, too early to legally release results, hell, the polls are still open for four more hours! Third, let's have a source for these numbers, Hannah. There are no "mid-morning results"! The only source, and I use the term loosely, to claim to release early results was Enrique Mendoza, a premiere member of the opposition group Coordinadora Democratica [sic], hardly an unbiased source, and he was shot down when the government banned early results.

 Perhaps you refuse to provide a source because none exists, or perhaps you're using the usual "reliable" source of the escualido opposition. Either way, you're blemishing the record of the Independent by presenting a prediction as a truism. The government has strictly and explicitly forbidden any early release of polling numbers. When the figures are released, they will be in the form of percentages, not hard numbers.

Fourth, "Left wing authoritarian president?" What the hell is that? Is it because you're still working under a racist premise about Latin America that you can disparage a democratically elected leader? I'd humbly suggest that after tonight, we'd find that Chavez has more popular support than Tony Blair. I'd like to see you describe him in such a way!

Independent, you need to be more careful in your reporters' screening process. And enough with the "firebrand" bullshit already! I've come to expect more, much more, from the Independent and the Observer. Get your facts straight before you lose your credibility.

Read her "report" here

Comments

Let Hannah's bosses know how you feel...

newseditor@independent.co.uk,
foreigneditor@independent.co.uk,
features@independent.co.uk,
letters@independent.co.uk

Give 'em all a piece of your mind.

Hannah Baldock Has Ruined Her Name as a Journalist

I don't know if she intended to lie or is just the stupidest "journalist" in Caracas, but she...
  • Hannah Baldock did not cite a source for her supposed "exit polls"...
  • "Exit polls" do not give numbers like "1.7 million versus 798,000" like the former journalist Hannah Baldock claims...
  • The numbers offered by Hannah Baldock do not at all match the private numbers of the Carter Center or other independent monitoring organizations (I wish I could say more, but I am respecting the law by waiting three more hours...)
  • The Independent of London is NOT going to like it when the official results come in and Hannah Baldock has made that newspaper a laughing stock throughout the world.
Hannah Baldock! Come out with your hands up! You are an incompetent, gullible, inept, poor excuse for a journalist! And, worse, you are a boring writer too!

To the Editors of the Independent...

To:
newseditor@independent.co.uk
foreigneditor@independent.co.uk
features@independent.co.uk
letters@independent.co.uk

Dear Editors,

I am an avid reader of the Independent newspapers online and in print. I hold your paper in very high esteem and I don't hesitate to recommend it to others looking for a more realistic portrayal of world events than US corporate media provide.

I am also a journalist currently working out of Caracas, Venezuela, and as you can imagine I am following the referendum process here extremely carefully as it unfolds. It is in this context that I found the article you published by Hannah Baldock, entitled "Venezuela's Chavez on Brink of Referendum Defeat".  It was with great shock and dismay, then, that I read Ms. Baldock's falsification of election results and mistreatment of the political situation here in Venezuela.

This referendum is of extreme importance in Latin America and the United States and the outcome will have far reaching repercussions. I can't begin to fathom why, in such a situation, a reporter would completely fabricate news! I say fabricate and falsify because as of now, 9:30 Caracas time - that is to say, one hour AFTER Ms. Baldock's story was published online - there have been no official election results.

Ms. Baldock claims that the "opposition is boasting 1,758,000 votes to Chavez's 798,000", but offers no source for this figure! She refers to "mid-morning results" - no such results exist outside the minds of the malinformed media and the desperate opposition. Such results, were they actually released, would be illegal, as exit polling has been banned by the Venezuelan government. This ban has been enacted in order to avoid the effects of early poll reporting on late-in-the-day voting, and I worry about the possibility of legal problems for the Independent resulting from this violation of Venezuelan law. It is an abuse of our position to falsify information in order to affect the outcome of democratic processes.

Ms. Baldock continues her misrepresentation by characterizing Chavez as "the authoritarian, left-wing president." I can't fathom how this characterization lends any credence to the story, other than to expose her apparent extreme bias.

Evidently Ms. Baldock failed to do even the most cursory research into the referendum process, as the ban on exit polling is common knowledge, and stands in direct contradiction to her purported "facts." What lack of respect Ms. Baldock has for the democratic process! This referendum will determine the fate of Venezuela for years to come and I believe your readership deserves accurate information on this contentious issue.

The fact that Ms. Baldock saw the need to falsely report rumors as fact is telling of her ability as a reporter. How much worse will it be when tomorrow the real results are released and show no similarity to the invented figures of Ms. Baldock. Not only is she demonstrating a lack of integrity, she's smearing the good name of the Independent. Truly, I expect more from the Independent, and I hope you deal with this issue in an public, honest, and respectful way. I believe this merits more than your customary back page correction. I expect this issue will be dealt with in a satisfactory manner as I would like to continue to read and recommend your paper to others.

Sincerely,

Ron Smith
Independent Documentary Producer and Authentic Journalist
August 15th, 2004
Caracas, Venezuela

nice

Another good call Ron, keep us posted as to what they say.

Credit where it's due

In all fairness, I have to thank the narconews team for the bien hecho that has happened to escualida reporter Baldock. Firstly, Jennifer Whitney for copy editing, additional writing, and keeping on my ass. Secondly, commander and Jefe of narconews, Al Giordano, for additional editing and finding the heinous pile of crap journalism that was Baldock's reporting from Caracas.

Hannah Baldock

has reported before on Venezuela, and elsewhere in Latin America, for

The Business: http://www.thebusinessonline.com/

Search under her name.

I writing The Independent expressing disgust with her article at all four email address Ron Smith provided.

Paul Zarembka

NO MORE!

As the oligarchs LOSE THE RECALL early this morning, the article has been pulled.  VICTORY FOR JOURNALISM! VICTORY FOR THE PEOPLE!  VICTORY FOR LATIN AMERICA AND THE WORLD!

Baldock's Disappearing Article

I'm very glad to see a reaction from the UK's Independent (since they haven't replied to my e-mail), but I'm a little uncomfortable declaring a victory for authentic journalism when an article is 'disappeared' rather than prefaced with a correction.

Cosmetic changes can, I feel, be honestly made -- for instance, our own Al Giordano called Hannah Baldock repeatedly 'Hannah Burdock' and has silently corrected this post (though not yet this one - incidentally, I made my 'for the record, the journalist's name is' post in response to Alex Satanovsky's post which doesn't name her, before I read Al's.)

But to pretend you never published wretched propaganda (after it fails to do its job) is not an act of journalistic integrity but, rather, cowardice.  (Note to the Independent: Baldock's previous article is almost as bad.  Will this one disappear too?)  It certainly doesn't serve our cause of truth as well as a carefully considered correction.

I suspected The Independent might yank Baldock's article from their web site, and I saved a copy.  I'll reprint it in its entirety here-- for historical amusement, though at the risk of anti-Chavez conspiracy theorists claiming evidence of an 'election fraud' cover-up, and for anyone wants to learn how NOT to do journalism (at least 'Dewey Defeats Truman' was close).  For both the conspiracy theorists and journalists, get the truth from Ron Smith's post (UK's Independent Newspaper Falsifies Venezuela Election Results!), above.

Here is Baldock's disaster-piece, put in the public domain by its infamy:


Venezuela's Chavez on brink of referendum defeat

By Hannah Baldock

16 August 2004

The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, looked to be losing his grip on power last night as exit polls showed him to be trailing the opposition by almost a million votes.

The figures were early indications that, for the first time in the country's history, the President may have his term in office cut short by a referendum.

The mid-morning results showed that the opposition, already boasting an enormous 1,758,000 votes to Chavez's 798,000, is well on its way to reaching the target of 3.76 million votes it needs to oust the authoritarian, left-wing President. Turn-out for the referendum was high, with millions of Venezuelans queuing from the early hours at polling stations all over the oil-rich country to decide the political fate of the firebrand Mr Chavez.

The Venezuelan people are tensely awaiting a close-run and disputed result. In the capital, Caracas, government vans equipped with speakers drove through the poor residential districts in the east of the city at 5am, playing a military wake-up call before piping out popular pro-Chavez songs to voters, some of whom had in any case been up all night letting off fireworks, anticipating victory.

"Our commandante has already won," said Eric Caldera, a student queuing to vote against Mr Chavez's recall. "The rich people and TV stations are the only ones who say the opposition is going to win. They want to regain the power and privilege they had before, and loot the country. You can count the rich people on your hand, the poor you can't. They are too many. And they are with Chavez."

A clamorous cluster of opposition voters in Parroquia El Recreo voting station, central Caracas, rejected the pro-Chavez voters' arguments against them. "If Chavez wins we will paint the walls with 'No Future'. As no one will have a future, not us nor our children. We don't want a Cuba here," added Elsie Billar, 54, an accountant.

If, as looked likely last night, Mr Chavez loses, Vice-President Jose Rangel will take over until general elections are held in a month's time.

The Independent "pulling" Baldock

Unlike Al, I don't find "pulling" Baldock's article as being signiificant,  Her story (propaganda)  was simply superceded by later news.  

What is more significant is why The Independent, in the first place, let her article through their vetting process.  And what is also more significant is that The Independent had someone else write the new story.

The real test is whether we will see her any longer reporting on Latin America for The Independent.  In any case, I don't expect an open "correction" to be forthcoming.

Long live the Bolivarian process!

not 'simply' pulled

Baldock's other old articles, also pretty bad, are still available on the Independent's web site.  The article Ron Smith et. al. attacked didn't just get superseded by later news, it was removed, hidden.  It's significant, though I think I (ben) am the only person who sees anything bad about it, and you are right: the real test is the Independent's future reporting on Venezuela and Latin America.

Article removal is conspiracy fodder

It's somewhat disingenuous to hide or remove posted articles. Particularly on (ahem) well-read media sources.
Someone is (may be) at the water-cooler saying, "I tell you I saw it, Chavez's recall was imminent!"

In this new-age of Black Box voting, full disclosure (on this/these issues) is paramount.

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