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National Assembly president accuses media outlets of misreporting, threatens investigation; demonstrators harass television crew

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 18 January 2008, the president of the National Assembly, representative Cilia Flores, accused television station Globovisión of "informational terrorism" and of undermining the country's stability. She made the accusation in response to a Globovisión broadcast about the National Assembly's approval of an agreement supporting President Hugo Chávez's proposal that the government of Colombia and the international community recognize Colombia's two main insurgent groups - the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberación Nacional, ELN) - as "belligerent forces" rather than as "terrorists".

On 17 January, Globovisión published a report on its webpage stating that the National Assembly had approved a legislative bill conceding political status to the FARC and ELN guerrillas. Flores denied this report, pointing out that the agreement backed Chávez's proposal, but did not actually grant such status to the armed groups. She stated that the television station abides by an editorial policy imposed by the United States.

She added that by publishing this report, Globovisión was contravening the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television (Ley de Responsabilidad Social en Radio y Televisión), which regulates media content.

She also accused the television station RCTV Internacional, the newspaper "El Nacional" and the networks BBC, CNN and RCN of distorting the content of the agreement approved by the National Assembly, and accused journalist Patricia Poleo, exiled in the United States since 2005, of being a member of the paramilitary.

Flores indicated that the Assembly's commission on science, technology and social communication (Comisión de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medios de Comunicación Social) would investigate the mentioned media outlets.

In a separate development, on 23 January, a group of alleged supporters of President Hugo Chávez prevented a Globovisión team of journalists from covering a public ceremony organized by university students in Plaza Bolívar in Caracas, to mark the 50th anniversary of Venezuela's return to democracy.

Reporter Mayela León told IPYS that when she and her crew reached the square, they were approached by more than 10 people who insulted and threatened them, warning them that they were not welcome. The group then demanded that the journalists leave the square. One of the demonstrators attempted to seize the camera tripod, but the journalists stopped him before departing.

IPYS condemns these actions, which limit press freedom.

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