Tags: Chavez | critics | TV | stations

Chavez Shutters Six Critical TV Stations

Sunday, 24 January 2010 11:01 PM EST

CARACAS — Six TV stations including opposition RCTV were forced off the air for not broadcasting President Hugo Chavez' speeches, prompting pot-banging demonstrations and complaints from journalists and rights groups.

The new rules passed in December require stations to air Chavez's speeches, among other mandates.

RCTV spokeswoman Gladys Zapiain said all Venezuelan cable television providers dropped the station and the other television channels from their line-ups.

"We have just been taken off the air," said Zapiain. "There was no prior notification."

Mario Seijas, president of the Venezuelan Chamber of Cable Television, told AFP that in addition to RCTV, the dropped channels include Ritmo Son, Momentum, America TV, American Network and TV Chile.

The providers argued that the stations had failed to comply with a government regulation issued in December, Zapiain said.

"We can't allow anything of the sort," Chavez said Sunday on his weekly, "Alo Presidente" radio and television talk show.

Under the measure, every television or radio station whose programming is at least 30 percent Venezuelan-made is considered a "national" media outlet.

As such, they are obligated to carry speeches by the president and other officials, as well as official government announcements.

Chavez critics view many of those speeches, which can last for hours, as government propaganda.

The media reprisal triggered spontaneous pot-banging demonstrations around Caracas, and at the baseball championship game there were cheers of support for RCTV.

The stadium at one point erupted in a single chant: "One, two, three strikes: Chavez is out."

The National Association of Journalists (CNP), the top reporters' union, as well as the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders called for a massive peaceful protest to repudiate the measure.

"We all have the right to open a newspaper and tune in to whatever television channel we choose," said CNP president William Echeverria.

The Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed its "serious concern" over the shuttering of the television stations and "emphatically" rejected the muzzling law.

"With this decision, the right to freedom of expression in Venezuela is further eroded, as it blocks cable media outlets from operating independently and without fear of being silenced on account of the focus of their reporting or their editorial stance," the commission said in a statement.

On Saturday, RCTV had failed to comply with the regulation for a second time.

That day, Chavez addressed thousands of followers in western Caracas, demanding "absolute loyalty" and telling them he embodied the heart and soul of the Venezuelan people.

"I am not an individual, I am the people," Chavez told a crowd of supporters. "It's my duty to demand respect for the people.

The president asked for voters to renew the ruling party's control of both National Assembly houses in upcoming elections in order to be able to "continue building our new socialist state."

Venezuela will hold crucial legislative elections in September, in which Chavez hopes to secure at least two thirds of seats to maintain his current legislative majority.

According to opinion polls, the president's popularity, which approached 60 percent approval at the beginning of 2009, stands now at less than 50 percent.

Chavez, a vocal critic of US influence in the region, has been in power since 1999.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sunday, 24 January 2010 11:01 PM
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