State regulatory commission investigates television station

New York, October 24, 2001—CPJ is alarmed that the Venezuelan National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) is investigating Globovisión, a 24-hour news channel, to determine whether the station violated media broadcast regulations by reporting “false” news. Conatel could fine the station or suspend its license temporarily or permanently.

On September 29, Globovisión reported that nine taxi drivers were attacked and killed the previous night. In fact, only one had been killed. Globovisión issued a correction that same day, the station’s manager of institutional relations Edith Ruiz told CPJ.

But during an October 4 public ceremony, President Hugo Chávez Frías railed against Globovisión for being against the “peaceful and democratic revolution” he had promised after taking office in 1999. Since then, Chávez has repeatedly assailed “the media of the oligarchy.”

According to the Caracas-based daily El Nacional, the president stated that the government controls broadcasting frequencies and warned, “Don’t be surprised if I, for reasons of national interest, revise these [broadcasting] concessions.”

In an October 18 letter, a copy of which was obtained by CPJ, Conatel notified Globovisión that the commission was investigating the station’s violation of 1941 broadcast media regulations, which forbid the transmission of false news and require information to come from trustworthy sources. The letter said Globovisión had 10 working days to present its defense.

“It is both ridiculous and disturbing for Venezuelan authorities to investigate Globovisión for having committed a mistake that has been rectified,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “CPJ hopes President Chávez will refrain from further intimidating the media.”