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TV station chief: We are not afraid of Chavez

Story Highlights

Demonstrators march again despite police use of water cannon
U.S. calls Venezuelan action an attack on freedom of expression
• Venezuela investigating Globovision, another opposition channel
• Venezuelan minister says, "CNN lies to Venezuela"; CNN denies allegations
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CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- As thousands of students marched in the streets in support, a Venezuelan television channel denied accusations that it was inciting violence against the government.

President Hugo Chavez's administration shut down one station that was critical of him, and has opened an investigation into the remaining opposition station, Globovision.

Globovision's director, Alberto Ravell, was unimpressed. "We are not going to change our editorial line that we are not afraid of the threats from this government," he told CNN.

In a news conference and a posting Monday on the government's Web site, Minister of Communication Willian Lara described two incidents he said were provocative.

First, Globovision's "Citizen" program on Sunday followed an interview with the outgoing director general of the opposition station, Radio Caracas Television, with video showing images of the attempted 1981 assassination in the Vatican of Pope John Paul II.

As the video played, Ruben Blades could be heard singing, "This doesn't end here."

"The television company, in that specific fragment of its programming, committed the crime of inciting to assassinate -- in the person of the chief of state of Venezuela," Lara said, referring to Chavez. "That was the objective."

The program aired on Globovision. RCTV had the nation's widest audience, counting 10 million of Venezuela's 26 million people as viewers of its programming, which included soap operas as well as news.

In a written statement directed to Globovision, Chavez said, "They have accused me of fascism. Well, it is they that I accuse of fascism. They are trying to make this seem as if the world has ended. They don't know, the poor things, that they are the ones being manipulated."

Chavez announced in January that the government would not renew RCTV's license. He accused the station of supporting the failed 2002 coup against him and violating broadcast laws.

RCTV, which had been broadcasting for 53 years, was replaced by a state-run station -- TVes -- on Monday.

Thousands of students from four colleges took to the streets of Caracas on Monday and Tuesday to make their complaints public. (Watch police turn water cannons on protesters after RCTV was shut down Video)

The U.S. State Department objected to the actions against news outlets.

"Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right," said State Department spokesman Tom Casey in a written statement. "It is an essential element of democracy anywhere in the world. And we certainly call on the government of Venezuela to abide by its commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Inter-American Democratic Charter and to reverse these policies that they're pursuing to limit freedom of expression."

CNN networks also criticized

Lara also criticized the U.S.-based CNN family of networks for broadcasting video showing anti-government demonstrations followed by images from Acapulco, Mexico, that showed protests against the death of a Mexican journalist and for juxtaposing Chavez to video showing the body of an alleged al Qaeda leader and protests in China.

"CNN lies to Venezuela," he said, adding that he worries that journalism is being used "to present political propaganda under the guise of news, in a systematic manner."

In a joint written statement, CNN en Espaņol and CNN International said they "categorically deny" the accusations.

"The reality is that upon being made aware of the video mix-up, CNN en Espanol aired a detailed correction and expressed regret for the involuntary error," the statement said.

About the complaint that CNNI tried to link Chavez to al Qaeda and China protests, CNN International Executive Vice President Tony Maddox denied, in a letter to the Venezuelan government, "any intention of associating President Chavez with al Qaeda or the China story," the network said.

"Unrelated news stories can be juxtaposed in a given program segment just as a newspaper page or a news Web site may have unconnected stories adjacent to each other."

Sunday night, police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds protesting the government's decision. (Full story)

Eleven policemen were wounded, eight of them seriously, Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez said.

"To refuse to grant a new license for the most popular and oldest television channel in the country because the government disagrees with the editorial or political views of this channel, which are obviously critical to Chavez, is a case of censorship," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

"We have arrived at totalitarianism," said Marcel Granier, president of Empresas 1BC, which owns RCTV.

Granier accused Chavez of being "afraid of free thought, of opinion, of criticism."

CNN's Harris Whitbeck contributed to this report.

Demonstrators fill a street in Caracas, Venezuela, during a protest Tuesday against the closure of private television network RCTV.


    • Troops fire tear gas, rubber bullets
    • Chavez closes TV station
    • Court rules against station
    • Chavez eyes nationalization


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