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Proposed constitutional reform that would have weakened press freedom guarantees defeated in referendum

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has called for a calm and more peaceful debate on the media situation and civil liberties in Venezuela after a government-backed reform of 68 of the constitution's articles was narrowly rejected in a referendum on 2 December 2007.

According to the National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral), the proposed reform of the 1999 Constitution, which, among other things, would have allowed the president to unilaterally proclaim an indefinite state of emergency and suspend press freedom, was rejected by 51 to 49 percent.

"This vote ends a year that has been marked, inter alia, by the withdrawal of Radio Caracas Televisión's terrestrial broadcast licence, an unprecedented level of partisan polarisation and many violent attacks on state and privately-owned media, both those that support the government and those that oppose it," RSF said.

"We are convinced that the central issue of the media and the proposed reform's provisions affecting press freedom had a direct impact on the outcome of the referendum," the organisation continued. "The very close result is indicative of the deep divisions in Venezuelan society. We hail President Chávez's responsible attitude, congratulating the opposition for its victory and promising to respect how the majority voted."

RSF added: "The outcome of the referendum should encourage the government and civil society to dialogue peacefully and calmly about the future of the media and civil liberties. It should mean the end of confrontation and media battles."

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