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Globovisión director, host summoned to court; RSF denies accusation of journalists' group

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has accused President Hugo Chávez of aiming to eliminate all the opposition media after he publicly threatened independent television station Globovisión and CNN, claiming they were instigating a "vast destabilisation plan," just two days after the closure of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV).

"By calling Globovisión's staff 'enemies of the motherland' and by clearly threatening participants in its broadcasts 'if they don't calm down,' President Chávez is displaying paranoia and intolerance," RSF said.

"Unfortunately, there is no longer any doubt about his goals," RSF added. "RCTV's closure was just the prelude to the progressive disappearance of all the opposition media. Media that criticise the government will be snuffed out one by one until only the pro-government media are left."

Communication and information minister Willian Lara brought a complaint against privately-owned Globovisión on 28 May 2007, accusing it of broadcasting content "inciting violence." The station broadcast footage of the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul at a time when Chávez was criticising Pope Benedict. Lara said this was tantamount to calling for the president's assassination.

The station's director, Alberto Federico Ravell, and the host of its programme "Aló, Ciudadano" (Hello Citizen), Leopoldo Castillo, have received court summonses and face criminal prosecutions.

The continuing demonstrations by students, journalists and opposition activists against RCTV's closure, in which several members of both opposition and pro-government press have been injured, have been branded as a "fascist attack" by Chávez. The president continually likens the present situation to the April 2002 coup in which he was ousted for 48 hours. Thousands of students demonstrated on 29 May against RCTV's closure and around 200 were arrested.

RSF also condemns the activities, reported by the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, of a group of pro-Chávez journalists called "Periodistas por la Verdad," who have been trying to get people to believe that two supposed RSF members - Enzo Pierini et Carlos Folchi - were distributing leaflets containing hate messages targeted at President Chávez.

These allegations are unfounded and ridiculous, and the press freedom organisation does not know these two people.

"It is easy for the authorities to condone this kind of slur while refusing our requests for a meeting during the fact-finding trip we made to Venezuela from 24 to 28 May," RSF said. "And it seems they did not agree that the news conference we gave on the last day should be broadcast live and in full by Globovisión."

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