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Radio host laid off from news program in Venezuela

(IPYS-Venezuela/IFEX) - On October 15, 2012, Ginette González, journalist and radio announcer for Unión Radio, a privately-owned radio network, reported that she was laid off from the show "Juntos pero no revueltos" (Together but not too much) that she hosted with Martín Pacheco. The show was aired by Caracas-based Actualidad 90.3 FM which is broadcast in most of Venezuela. Ángel Lesma, Vice-president of the Information Department of Actualidad, informed Gonzalez of the decision during a private meeting.

González told IPYS-Venezuela that Lesma told her that the radio station had decided to stop her work for the "Juntos pero no revueltos" program, which is aired from Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. Pacheco, co-host of the show, will remain in the show. Pacheco was, during the first two presidential terms of President Hugo Chavez, the General Director of Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also worked as the General Consul of Venezuela to Boston, Massachusetts. In addition, Pacheco has been a key adviser to the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela in media-related matters.

IPYS-Venezuela consulted Lesma about the decision, and he said that the decision was based on business, as the "preventa" would be starting quite soon. The "preventa" is an event conducted yearly with sponsors, when the radio station presents marketing and information proposals for the next year. "We always change the schedules, the times when the shows are aired, the anchors and even the shows (...) these are all normal and natural changes in the radio station," Lesma said.

González, in turn, said that during the private meeting she was summoned to, the representative of the radio station told her that she had been removed from the program because they needed to retain State-funded official advertising, and Pacheco would cooperate to expand the sponsors network with State-owned institutions. Lesma said that this decision only means González must leave the show, and she will remain doing her job as a reporter and anchor of the news program of Actualidad 90.3 FM. She has been the news anchor for 13 years.

González said that for the benefit of balanced information, Unión Radio has had, for two years, a format in which they attempt to have two social and political positions rooted in the perspective of the government and the opposition. González had shared hosting duties of the radio show with Pacheco for over a year. In the beginning they shared the recording booth and they were aired jointly, sharing interviews and news alike.

González also said that Pacheco accused her, more than once, of receiving money from the opposition. These accusations became stronger in February 2012, when the primary elections, organized by the Unidad Democratica (coalition of opposition-aligned political parties) were held in order to choose a sole candidate to face Chávez in the presidential elections held on October 7th.

According to González' account, from that moment onwards, the directive of the radio station decided not to have González and Pacheco together in the recording booth. It was agreed that each of them would be aired from different booths and they would alternate in news segments, across the 2-hour show.

On top of this string of incidents, González added that on September 3, 2012, amid a media tour, President Hugo Chávez was interviewed in the show "Juntos pero no revueltos" by Pacheco. "They called me from the radio station and told me that from 5:30 p.m. Martín was going to home the program alone because he was to interview the President. When the interview started the President asked where I was and Pacheco told him that I was sick," González said. In response, she wrote via her Twitter account @ginettegm: "President Chávez @chavezcandanga respectfully I want u 2 know (sic) that I could not interview u because Martín said your interview was exclusive."
In another message she said: "Dear friends, thanks God I am NOT sick."

She also said that the radio station's board of directos had often urged her to moderate her remarks on Twitter, with regards to incidents that occurred at the station.

This situation can be considered a case of internal censorship because of the changes that can occur as a result of pressure exerted by media directors.

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