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Television station shuts down due to economic and political pressure; judge harasses journalist

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 10 July 2009, the Órbita TV station, which operates in the northern region of the state of Anzoátegui, ceased to operate. The station said it is in financial trouble due to the pressure exerted by the regional government on advertisers.

The station's Operations Manager, Marcos Figueroa, told IPYS that an "open war" exists between Governor Tarek William Saab and Órbita TV. He accused Saab of putting pressure on advertisers and on the Intercable cable company, urging it to block the station's signal.

Figueroa said that in the last four months, Intercable has moved the station's signal between four different channels. He believes this is a form of sabotage.

In June, Juan Guaramaima, a member of the Regional Legislative Assembly, called on the telecommunications authorities to suspend Órbita TV's signal and accused the owners of being involved in a "conspiracy".

Saab has often questioned Órbita TV and Circuito Radial Órbita's editorial policy in the speeches he delivers as part of the government's program broadcast on radio and television. Both stations' signals are emitted in the states of Anzoátegui and Monagas. Órbita TV's stations in El Tigre, southern Anzoátegui, and Maturín, in the State of Monagas, are still broadcasting.

The National Journalists' Association (Colegio Nacional de Periodistas, CNP) expressed its support for the station. Isbelsy Hernández, the association's secretary, condemned the economic and political pressure exerted on several media outlets, pressure aimed at getting them to adopt an editorial policy that favors the regional government.

In a separate incident, on 8 July, "El Nacional" journalist Vanessa Gómez Quiroz was threatened by the president of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), Luisa Estela Morales. During a press conference at the Prosecutor General's offices, Morales told the journalist: "it is dangerous to meddle with me", after Gómez posed a question that the judge did not like.

Morales reminded Gómez of what had happened to journalist Eligio Rojas, of the newspaper "Últimas Noticias". In 2007, Rojas was forbidden from covering events at the TSJ without being given any explanation, although he believes the order was issued by the judge after he denounced that she had prevented a group of reporters from entering the court.

IPYS condemns the judge's intimidation tactics.

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