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Globovisión faces charges for reporting on earthquake; its website hacked

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 7 May 2009, the National Telecommunications Commission (Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, CONATEL) initiated proceedings against Globovisión television station for broadcasting information that, according to CONATEL, could lead to a lack of trust in authorities and spread fear. The station reported on 5 May that a 5.4 Richter scale earthquake had shaken the central region of Venezuela during the early hours of 4 May.

According to CONATEL, the broadcasting of the news about the earthquake violated Article 29, Subsection 1, of the Social Responsibility in Radio and Television Law (Ley de Responsabilidad Social en Radio y Televisión, Ley Resorte), which prohibits any media outlet from "promoting, making apology for or instigating the population to war; promoting, making apology for or instigating the population to breach the peace (. . .)".

CONATEL initiated proceedings after the National Assembly urged it to investigate and punish the station for reporting on the earthquake before the government.

If the station is punished under Article 29, Globovisión will not be allowed to broadcast for 72 hours. The station opposes the government and is already involved in two other actions initiated by CONATEL. If Globovisión loses all three cases, its broadcasting permit could be revoked for up to five years.

The station's director, Alberto Federico Ravell, said that the source of the information broadcasted by the station was the American Geological Service's webpage.

IPYS condemns this legal action, which it sees as part of a harassment campaign against a television station that opposes the government.

In a separate incident on 6 May, Globovisión's webpage was hacked for seven hours and remained out of order until the early hours of 7 May. Two groups that call themselves "Students in Defense of Democracy" and "Hackers for Freedom" claimed responsibility for the attack in a message left on the website in which they criticised President Hugo Chávez's administration. The true identity of those responsible and their motives are, however, unknown.

Globovisión broadcasts information 24 hours a day and constantly updates its webpage.

IPYS condemns this attack and asks the authorities to punish those responsible.

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