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In Mérida, ULA TV workers interfere with station's operations; local residents threaten reporters, accuse them of distorting facts

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 30 October 2007, three workers of the University Channel (Canal Universitario, previously known as ULA TV), took over the station's headquarters and stopped another 36 workers from entering. The television station belongs to the Los Andes University (Universidad de los Andes, ULA), and is among the three most important in the city of Mérida, northwestern Venezuela.

The workers, identified as Néstor Angulo, Junior Pernia and Benjamín Ramírez, a former employee, justified their actions by saying that the station's administration does not comply with work benefits, and that the station's informative line has been modified by re-transmitting information produced by Globovisión (Caracas) and Americana Televisión (State of Zulia), both of whom are critical of the government. They also demand the right of labourers to participate in the administration of the company.

University Channel was founded as a media outlet directed at students, and it broadcasts academic, cultural and informative programming.

Broadcasting of some of the station's programming has resumed, thanks to an automatic system that operates from within the same building, broadcasting taped programmes and information from the university's communications office.

A pro-government National Assembly representative, Marcela Mápero, who is also National Coordinator of Venezuela's National Workers' Union, and Juan Carlos Acosta, General Coordinator of the Mérida Security Guards' Union (Sindicato Bolivariano de Trabajadores de Vigilancia del Estado Mérida, SIBTRAVIM), presented themselves at the station to pledge their support for the workers.

ULA's vice-chancellor, Léster Rodríguez, attempted to reach an agreement with the workers without success. He reported the events to the Public Prosecutor's Office but has received no response.

In a separate development, on 11 November a score of local residents threatened a group of reporters while they covered the local judicial authorities' inspection and removal of the bodies of a child and an adult in the town of Santa Catalina, Mérida, in southern Venezuela.

The residents accused them of distorting the facts. The journalists fled but were able to report about the discovery of the bodies through their newspapers.

The threatened journalists were Jorge Puentes, of the newspaper "Frontera", Ángel Timaure, of the newspaper "Cambio de Siglo", and photographers Giancarlo Vido, of the newspaper "Pico Bolívar", and Rolando Gómez, of the newspaper "Diario de los Andes".

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