Letters - Media wars

John Pilger uses my recent Channel 4 News film on Venezuela to support his argument that broadcasters have become "servile to state power" ("The real first casualty of war", 24 April). He claims my report "might have been broadcast by the US State Department". Such nonsense cannot go unanswered.

Venezuela's vice-president and another minister appeared in my report. Pilger makes no mention of this. He believes it was a sin of omission not to have mentioned the elections Hugo Chávez has won, yet the minister points out in the film that "the people elected Chávez".

Pilger writes: "According to Rugman, Venezuela under Chávez is helping Iran develop nuclear weapons." I never say this. I ask the vice-president whether this claim is true or not and he dismisses it as "fantasy". A senior non-US diplomat told me his government is investigating

uranium-enrichment claims. Should these turn out to be no more than opposition propaganda, Venezuela's decision - along with Syria and Cuba - to support Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency will still be a legitimate area of inquiry.

Pilger also says that viewers would have "no idea" from my film that Venezuela is unique in using "its oil revenue for the benefit of poor people". Yet we refer to "billions Chávez can use to subsidise welfare". A minister is heard explaining, "We are spending the money on the poor. That is why they are with Chávez."

Finally, Pilger complains that I portray Chávez as a cartoon character whereas I "allow" Donald Rumsfeld to compare Chávez with Hitler. Does it not occur to Pilger that some viewers may have found Rumsfeld's comparison ridiculous? If we'd left this out, would Pilger not have been among the first to accuse us of what he calls "censorship by journalism"?

Far from believing Chávez is a cartoon character, I take his frequent expressions of hatred for the government of the United States very seriously indeed. That is precisely what our film was all about.

Jonathan Rugman
Washington correspondent
Channel 4 News
London WC1

John Pilger does journalism a disservice by repeating the claim that "Operation Bilbao" is Bush's "contingency plan" for invading Venezuela. Bilbao is a war game, designed for training purposes at the Spanish general staff academy. If all

war games were real plans, Scotland would

long ago have been invaded by Nato.

Phil Gunson
Caracas, Venezuela

This article first appeared in the 01 May 2006 issue of the New Statesman, Wealth and terror