New York, October 7, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned that Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) has opened administrative proceedings against the 24-hour news channel Globovisión to determine whether Globovisión is violating telecommunications regulations.
Globovisión has 15 business days to present its defense to Conatel. The TV station has vigorously opposed President Hugo Chávez Frías and considers it is being targeted for its antigovernment coverage.
On October 3, Conatel officials notified Globovisión that the commission was investigating Globovisión’s alleged use of unauthorized broadcasting frequencies. The commission also ordered the channel not to use the frequencies. According to Globovisión, the same day, Conatel officials came to two transmission stations in the capital, Caracas, and confiscated broadcasting equipment. Globovisión said that, as a result, it cannot broadcast live from outside its headquarters.
Conatel opened the administrative proceedings to discover whether Globovisión was illegally transmitting from unauthorized broadcasting frequencies, an allegation Globovisión denies. If found in violation of the regulations, Globovisión could be fined and/or it could lose the confiscated equipment.
Under Article 183 of Venezuela’s Telecommunications Law, Conatel may order the preventive confiscation of broadcasting equipment if the commission believes it is being used for unauthorized activities. Information and Communications Minister Jesse Chacón has said that Globovisión “was using frequencies illegally.”
On October 3, the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) that protects and promotes human rights in the Americas, issued precautionary measures in favor of Globovisión, ordering the Venezuelan state to return the confiscated equipment.
In the October 5 edition of his weekly radio and TV program, President Chávez said that Globovisión “was operating [the frequencies] without permission,” as quoted by official news agency Venpres.
“Conatel has failed to demonstrate the urgency for the measures it has taken,” said CPJ’s Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We urge the Venezuelan government to refrain from doing anything that might have the effect of limiting the free dissemination of information.”