Venezuelan private broadcaster to pay fine after seizure order

Globovision is Venezuela's last remaining television broadcaster that is openly critical of President Hugo Chavez, who is pictured here on June 22, 2012.

Story highlights

  • Venezuela's supreme court orders the seizure of Globovision's assets
  • The private broadcaster will pay a fine to avoid the action
  • The station says the supreme court is interfering with an appeal to the original fine
  • The government and Globovision have been at odds for years

A private Venezuelan television station openly critical of President Hugo Chavez said Friday it will pay a hefty fine after the country's highest court ordered that its assets be seized.

The supreme court's announcement, which came down Thursday evening, ordered seizure of the broadcaster's property and equipment for failure to pay a $2.2 million fine levied last year.

Globovision is currently fighting the fine in court, and accused the high court of interfering with their appeal process. The station also questioned why the supreme court ordered seizures worth $5.7 million, more than double the value of the original fine.

The high court's "grotesque and despotic" decision forces the station to pay the original fine immediately, before its validity is decided in a lower court, Globovision said.

In its statement, the court said the seizure amount was the calculation of twice the original fine, plus the costs of executing the action.

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Globovision is Venezuela's last remaining television broadcaster that is openly critical of President Hugo Chavez. The seizure announcement comes days before the electoral campaign officially kicks off.

The original fine stems from Globovision's coverage of a standoff at the Rodeo II prison in June and July.

The station violated a law that prohibits stirring anxiety in the public and instigating intolerance for political reasons, officials charged. These are violations under a media responsibility law passed in December.

The stated goal of the law is to establish "social responsibility" in those who provide television, radio and Internet service. The law affects all text, images, sound or context sent or received in Venezuela.

Globovision defended its coverage of the prison standoff, which started with a riot that killed at least 22 people and turned into a nearly monthlong standoff between prisoners and national guard troops.

But not paying the fine immediately could risk the station being shuttered, Globovision said.

"Globovision is very clear about its responsibility to forge ahead, to stay open and to remain the principal space for criticism and free, independent news," the station said in a written statement.

Chavez loyalist Diosdado Cabello, president of the country's national assembly, said on his Twitter account that Globovision "still believes it is above the law and the time to pay arrived today."

Over the years, the government has launched various investigations into Globovision -- looking, for instance, at its reporting about an earthquake before an official report had been issued, and failing to pay about $2.3 million in taxes. Station officials have said the charges are politically motivated.

In 2010, the government secured a 25.8% interest in the broadcaster when it took over two companies, one owning a 20% stake in Globovision and the other, a 5.8% stake.