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Venezuelan government closes down radio stations

Tony DunhamAugust 1, 2009

The Venezuelan government has ordered the closure of 34 radio stations in the latest bid to rein in the media. Critics have slammed the move as state censorship.

A poster of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez
It's not the first time leftist President Chavez has revoked the licenses of some broadcastersImage: DW

Diosdado Cabello, the head of national telecommunications regulator Conatel and minister of public works in President Hugo Chavez's leftist government, said the decision to close the stations was part of "a new phase of information."

Cabello said the closures were due to the stations' failures to meet legal operating requirements, and warned that more closures may follow. He defended the closures, saying they were part of the government's effort to "democratize the airwaves."

But critics said the crackdown was arbitrary and the owners were not given the right to a proper defense.

The Venezuelan Chamber of Radio Broadcasters described the decision as an "enormous violation."

Freedom of expression

The decision to shut down the 34 stations came one day after Luisa Ortega Diaz, Venezuela's top prosecutor, suggested toughening the country's media law to "regulate the freedom of expression."

It is not the first time Chavez has recalled the licences of broadcasters considered critical of the government. Opposition broadcaster Globovision, which the president accused of "media terrorism," has often been threatened with having its license revoked. The broadcaster has also been slapped with hefty fines.

In 2007, Chavez did not renew the license for a widely watched private TV station, RCTV, that was a persistent critic of the government.

Analysts believe the move is part of Chavez's payback to the media owners, who he has never forgiven for backing a failed coup against him in 2002.

In total, 240 radio stations are under investigation, representing 40 per cent of the nation's broadcasters.


Editor: Sonia Phalnikar