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IAPA calls on government to ensure free, unregulated reporting during election campaign

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 19 November 2008 IAPA press release:

IAPA calls on Venezuelan government to ensure free, unregulated reporting during election campaign

Miami (November 19, 2008) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today issued a public call on the Venezuelan government to "provide the necessary guarantees" for news media and journalists to carry out their work freely and without any pre-conditions during the regional election campaigns that will go to a vote this Sunday.

The IAPA's concern arises from the threat of possible action against independent television channel Globovisión and the frequent pubic announcements by President Hugo Chávez about retaliation against gubernatorial candidates and news media that are critical of the official campaign in the event that the candidates from the pro-government United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) are not elected.

According to a complaint received by the IAPA, on October 16 the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) began legal proceedings against Globovisión, alleging that its program "Aló Ciudadano" (Hi, Mr. Citizen) on October 13 broadcast comments that amounted to the criminal offense of inciting a breach of the peace, thus infringing national security.

IAPA President Enrique Santos Calderón and the chairman of the organization's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, voiced the fear that the CONATEL action could be aimed at "silencing an independent voice in the country, and, what is worse, intimidating news media at the very moment when their work is most necessary during an election campaign."

The IAPA officers made a public call on the government of Venezuela to "provide the guarantees needed for news media and journalists to work unfettered, without pre-conditions of any kind, thus respecting the Venezuelan people's right to information."

The CONATEL controversy with Globovisión sprang from an interview that the channel aired in a program with the editor of the newspaper El Nuevo País, Rafael Poleo, who compared Chávez to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. The channel defended its position concerning the Law on Social Responsibility arguing that it is not responsible for content in independent programs, especially when the program host explicitly prevented the interviewee from talking further on the topic.

According to Globovisión, CONATEL will advise them by November 28 in the event any sanction is to be taken against the station.

For further information on the legal proceedings launched against Globovisión by CONATEL in October 2008, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/97992

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