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Electoral Council interferes with broadcast of publicity about proposed constitutional reform

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 18 October 2007, the National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE) opened administrative proceedings against Globovisión television station because, according to the CNE, Globovisión had broadcast 12 advertisements about the proposed constitutional reform prior to the CNE's 24 October ruling on the frequency with which such advertisements could be broadcast. The penalties for this misdemeanor may include a prison sentence and fines of up to US$15,000. The electoral body has still not made a decision about the case.

According to Globovisión's lawyer, Ana Núñez, the CNE did not allow the station, which opposes the government, 10 working days, to which it was entitled under the law, to present its arguments regarding the alleged offence. She claimed that the station did not broadcast any advertising prior to the CNE ruling.

The CNE based its decision on the Organic Law on Suffrage and Political Participation (Ley Orgánica del Sufragio y Participación Política), which stipulates that the broadcasting of electoral campaign publicity must be ruled by the CNE's norms regarding campaign advertising and its frequency, which were only approved on 24 October.

The advertisements were placed by the organisation "Ciudadanía Activa" and quote a speech by the "Liberator" Simón Bolivar about the danger posed by a leader who wants to perpetuate his own power. According to the CNE, the advertisements promote the rejection of the proposed constitutional reform, which will be voted on in a national referendum on 2 December and has created a stir in the country because of, among other things, its proposal that there be no limit on the number of times a president can run for re-election. However, according to "Ciudadanía Activa", a CNE representative had stated that the advertisements did not constitute publicity about the proposed reform and that they could therefore continue to be broadcast.

In October the CNE also prohibited the government-owned television station Venezolana de Televisión from broadcasting two advertisements in favor of the constitutional reform, which were issued by the Ministry of Information and Communication; however, it did not initiate administrative proceedings against that station.

IPYS believes that the administrative proceeding initiated against Globovisión infringes on the television station's right to present its arguments within the period legally stipulated.

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