Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Crackdown in Venezuela

Writing for the Weekly Standard, Blanquita Cullum offers a good overview of how Venezuela's demagogic president, Hugo Chavez, is cracking down on his country's non-governmental press outlets:

The move against RCTV is just one of many that the Chávez government has taken against Venezuela's independent media. The country's 2005 penal code mandates prison sentences for anyone who "offends with his words or in writing or in any other way disrespects the President of the Republic or whoever is fulfilling his duties," who makes comments that "expose another person to contempt or public hatred," or who "causes public panic or anxiety" with reports deemed inaccurate.

In conversations with independent Venezuelan journalists and media owners during a visit to Caracas early this year, I was told that the Chávez government is gradually silencing critical media. The government imposes punitive taxes and fines, arbitrarily applies laws and regulations, and brings charges of criminal defamation. The government, they said, delayed renewing licenses for various stations until after last December's presidential election as a way to hold networks "over the precipice" and thereby force them to exercise self-censorship. They said that by refusing to renew the license of RCTV, Chávez is sending a message to all other media that he has the power to do what he wants with Venezuela's radio and TV stations.

Journalists from privately owned independent media do not have access to cover government hearings, I was told. Chávez does not give interviews and will not allow local journalists to attend and cover events at the presidential palace. Only the government's broadcast network, Venezolana de Televisión, has access. The government does not allow other officials to be interviewed. And the government requires independent media to broadcast five hours' worth of programming every week chosen by the Ministry of Communication.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Hasta La Vista, Free Speech


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