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"Correo del Caroní" suffering electrical outages, its journalist threatened; more cancellations of television frequency concessions threatened

(IPYS/IFEX) - A newspaper's journalist has been threatened over its coverage of the non-renewal of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) station's frequency concession, and the newspaper itself has suffered a series of power outages. As well, President Hugo Chávez has warned that the frequency concessions of other television stations may be cancelled.

On 30 May 2007, the newspaper "Correo del Caroní" of Ciudad Guayana, in southern Venezuela, suffered a power outage more than four hours long, which damaged its computers. Fifteen days earlier there was another power cut that coincided with a series of journalistic accusations about the lack of investment in the region's electrical infrastructure.

Robinson Lizano, the newpaper's chief editor, told IPYS that since 27 June 2006 the newspaper has suffered over 30 power outages (see IFEX alert of 28 June 2006).

Eleoriente, the company in charge of the region's electricity, told IPYS that the outages were just chance occurrences.

Also on 30 May, a group of students from the Antonio José de Sucre National University (Universidad Nacional Antonio José de Sucre, UNEXPO) entered "Correo del Caroní" headquarters and threatened to hit journalist Luis Anselmi because of information published by him about the group's attempt to stop other students' protesting against the non-renewal of RCTV's frequency concession, which led to the 29 May end of its broadcasting (see IFEX alerts of 30 and 29 May, 26, 25, 19, and 12 April, 12 and 2 January 2007, and others). The incident occurred in the town of Puerto Ordaz, Bolívar state, southern Venezuela.

The students, led by Gustavo Guerra, stated that they were in favour of the non-renewal of RCTV's concession.

In a separate development, on 2 June President Hugo Chávez described the private media as "destabilizing" his government and warned them that their operating licences may end before the expiry dates already slated. The president made the warning during a speech before a group of sympathizers in Caracas, who were marching "against imperialism and in defense of TEVES", the television station that replaced RCTV.

Chávez explained that, in the case of RCTV, the government had waited until the concession expired and then did not renew it. He said, however, "that nobody should believe it will always happen that way, a concession may expire before the established time, due to violations of the Constitution, the laws, or media-incited terrorism".

While his sympathizers chanted "now it's Globovisión's turn", the chief of state told the media that they have received a first warning and that "they should not make mistakes, and be careful about how far they want to go".

IPYS condemns President Chávez's declarations as they undermine press freedom and freedom of expression and may promote self-censorship.

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