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IAPA protests possible takeover of Globovisión by government

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, July 21, 2010, - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today protested an announcement by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that his government will take over a percentage of the shares in the privately-owned television network Globovisión, calling the action "a flagrant assault on press freedom and freedom of enterprise in Venezuela."

Chávez announced yesterday details of how the state will become part owner of Globovisión, stating that his government will control 45.8% of the stock comprised of shares now belonging to Nelson Mezerhane, president of the Federal Bank - which was seized last month, 5.8% from another company and a further 20% owned by Luis Teófilo Núñez, who died in 2007.

In response, the television network announced yesterday that it was reaffirming its editorial independence and that under its statute's terms, individual shareholders do not have a right to name directors; rather, "members of the Board of Directors are appointed by the meeting of shareholders on a vote by more than 55% of the capital stock."

IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre, editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, declared, "In view of this new controversy surrounding Globovisión, we strongly reject the authoritarian attitude of the government of President Chávez, who is once again blatantly assaulting press freedom and freedom of enterprise." He added that this episode is part of a "strategy of connected offenses against the privately-owned and independent news media, in place for the past decade, in which Chávez has ordered the shutdown of TV and radio stations, and newspapers have been financially strangled merely for criticizing government acts and exercising their right to express an opinion."

Robert Rivard, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, recalled that for the past four years the IAPA has denounced the Venezuelan government's campaign to malign the television network and its president and owner, Guillermo Zuloaga, who was forced to flee the country under political, presidential and judicial persecution.

Zuloaga, who yesterday was awarded the IAPA 2010 Grand Prize for Press Freedom - the organization's highest recognition for defenders of a free press, faces more than 40 lawsuits and administrative actions against Globovisión, as well as a charge brought in April this year of criminal dissemination of false information and offending the head of state, along with another allegation of usury in a case involving another, non-journalistic company.

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