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Radio programme cancelled after host criticises mayor's administration

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 2 June 2008, the directors of Planeta 98.7 radio station suspended the "Vallenatos y algo más" news and entertainment programme after its host, Yon Espinel, criticised the poor condition of the streets in the town of Sabaneta, municipality of Alberto Arvelo Torrealba, Barinas state, in southeastern Venezuela. The journalist said that the programme's suspension was due to pressure exerted by Mayor Aníbal Chávez. On his programme, Espinel also stated that he disagreed with the use of the city's educational institutions to carry out the United Socialist Party of Venezuela's internal elections.

"The radio station's owner told me that he could not withstand the pressure being exerted by the mayor any longer and that he did not want the radio station to be closed down or to have any more problems," Espinel told IPYS.

Espinel said that the harassment by the mayor began in October 2007 when he commented on municipal problems on his programme. He also noted that the mayor warned the station's directors that if Espinel continued hosting the programme he would withdraw all investment in advertising and would shut the station down. The town's council invests about 4,000 bolívares (approximately US$1,860) monthly in advertisements.

The station's owner, Gilberto Téllez, assured IPYS that he was not pressured to cancel "Vallenatos y algo más" which he said was supposed to be an entertainment and not a public affairs programme. He said that this was the source of his disagreement with Espinel's comments.

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