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January 27, 2010
Venezuelan students protest ban on opposition TV network

Bloggers react to moves by the Venezuelan government to restrict television stations, which led to protests and two deaths. Translations by James Matthews at Worldfocus.

Two students were killed by stray bullets on January 25 in a clash between pro- and anti-government protesters in Mérida, a city in western Venezuela.

Opposition groups organized the demonstrations following a January 24 order by Conatel, the country’s telecommunications regulator, to take six cable television channels off the air – including Radio Caracas Televisión Internacional (RCTV), the main opposition television channel.

The cable television channels were accused of infringing the ‘Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television’ for not broadcasting one of President Hugo Chávez’s speeches. Last week, the channels were re-classified as national networks, rather than international ones, and were thereby newly subject to Venezuela’s Radio and Television Law.

Here’s how some bloggers reacted —

Liberal Venezolano offered this commentary on the government’s clampdown on cable television:

“The cancer of the press metastasizes…The problem for bureaucrats is that once they start restricting freedom in one medium, people tend to move towards the spaces in which they can still exercise freedom – in this case cable television. This makes the initial restrictive measures ineffective.”

The opposition has labeled the measure a “gag law.” From d-b news, a critique of Chávez’s media policy:

“Chávez lost his sense of direction long ago and, what is worse, those who defend him have done so as well. I can’t understand any of the arguments put forward by his supporters. Above all, I can’t understand the justifications used for the informational gag that the Venezuelan government has enforced for some time now.”

The government, meanwhile, says that it has not closed down any channels and that it is just following the stipulations of the law.

Watch student protesters outside Conatel’s headquarters in Caracas:

CitizenNews has more images of the protests taken by participants and writes:

“These photos sent in by citizens are a response to the gag on freedom of expression in Venezuela. They are one of the few existing channels to inform the rest of the world about what is happening.”

This is not the first time that Venezuelan media organizations have clashed with the authorities over freedom of speech. In 2007 RCTV’s precursor was taken off the air amid accusations from the government of conspiracy.

– James Matthews

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Thanks Adriana. We amended it.


It’s RCTV, not RCTI

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