Ana Karina Villalba with Grady faculty on a tour of the journalism school.

Cox Center Hosts Venezuelan Broadcast Journalist; Discussions Center on Media Law and Investigative Journalism

Ana Maria Villalba, reporter and anchor of the Venezuelan news program Globovision TV Channel 33, visited the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication on July 9 where she discussed media law, the role of investigative journalism in the United States and international media training programs funded by U.S. organizations and foundations.

The one-day program for Ms. Villalba was organized by the James M. Cox, Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College. It included discussions of free speech issues, of investigative journalism techniques as practiced in the United States, and of media training programs conducted by the Cox Center around the world in support of independent media.

Dr. Barry Hollander, associate professor in the Department of Journalism in the Grady College, discussed the practice of investigative journalism in the United States.

“While hearing Dr. Hollander’s comments on investigative journalism and on access to official records,” Ms. Villalba said, “I had a confirmation that the techniques that journalists use are quite similar everywhere. The differences come from the attitude of the government and other organizations towards journalists. Having access to official documents in Latin America is sometimes a real challenge.”

The Venezuelan journalist then met with Dr. Kent Middleton, head of the Journalism Department and author of The Law of Public Communication, a textbook widely used by journalism programs across the nation. “U.S. media law is structured to protect free speech, which is guaranteed to U.S. citizens through the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Dr. Middleton said. “Sometimes the government tries to limit information to journalists, but there have been few cases when a big story did not make it in the media.”

Dr. Middleton conducted a web search before his meeting with Ana Karina Villalba and found that she and other Venezuelan journalists had filed a complaint for harassment and intimidation by government officials. “It was a total surprise to me,” Ms. Villalba said. “Professor Middleton knew about our complaint, and he contacted a legal expert in Miami while I was in the Grady College and helped me talk with the expert. It was very generous of him.”

The attorney contacted by Dr. Middleton was Jairo E. Lanao, specialist in Latin America communication law, who has done work for the Inter American Press Association. Mr. Lanao advised Ms. Villalba and promised future assistance.

The Venezuelan broadcast journalist received a tour of the Grady College and then met Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru, assistant professor in the Advertising and Public Relations Department. Originally, Dr. Acosta-Alzuru is from Venezuela, and she was a professor at the University of Caracas while Ms. Villalba also was a journalism student there.

“While talking with Carolina, I realized that she had taught one of my journalism classes in Caracas,” Ms. Villalba said. “The world is small. I will stay in touch with Dr. Becker and with her because I want to establish a relationship between the Grady College and a journalism program in Venezuela.”

Dr. Becker and Dr. Tudor Vlad, Cox Center assistant director, gave Ms. Villalba an overview of the international programs organized by the Cox Center. The Venezuelan journalist asked for more information about recent projects of the Cox Center in Trujillo, Peru, on health reporting, and in Ukraine and Romania, on media coverage of elections.

The program for the Ms. Villalba also included a tour The Red and Black, the UGA student independent newspaper.

The Venezuelan journalist came to the United States under the auspices of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. In Georgia, her program was coordinated by the Georgia Council for International Visitors. She was accompanied by interpreter Mr. Charles Moore.

Prior to the visit to the University of Georgia, the Venezuelan journalist visited media organizations and associations, government institutions, and media research NGOs in New York City, Boston, Minneapolis and Atlanta.