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Other media outlets less critical in wake of "predetermined" non-renewal of RCTV licence, says CPJ report

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 24 April 2007 CPJ press release:

Static in Venezuela
A CPJ Special Report: The Chávez administration pulls a broadcast license as it asserts media muscle

New York, April 24, 2007 - The Venezuelan government failed to conduct a fair and transparent review when it refused to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Televisión, the country's oldest private television station, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found in a new report, "Static in Venezuela."

After a three-month investigation, CPJ concluded that the government's decision was predetermined and politically motivated, setting an alarming precedent and casting doubt on Venezuela's commitment to free expression. The license for Radio Caracas Televisión, or RCTV, expires on May 27. The station has filed a court appeal in hopes of staving off the decision, which was first announced by President Hugo Chávez Frías in December.

"In the months before and after the announcement, the government held no hearings, followed no discernible application process, and provided RCTV no opportunity to respond to assertions made by top officials," write CPJ's Carlos Lauría and Sauro González Rodríguez. Barring a reversal, RCTV's license is the first to be effectively pulled by the Chávez administration.

The threat of losing access to the airwaves hangs over dozens of other television and radio stations whose licenses have also come up for renewal, prompting some news outlets to pull back on critical programming, CPJ found. The RCTV case also comes as the Chávez administration is moving aggressively to expand state media and amplify its voice. The government says it will take over RCTV's frequency with plans to make it a public broadcasting channel.

The report, based on a weeklong mission to Venezuela and dozens of interviews, is available online and will appear in the coming edition of CPJ's magazine Dangerous Assignments.

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom around the world.

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