New York, February 12, 2008—A group of Venezuelan legislators urged the Attorney General’s Office yesterday to investigate private television station Globovisión, alleging the broadcaster is damaging the image of President Hugo Chávez Frías.
Led by Deputy Juan Carlos Dugarte, from the official Movimiento Quinta República party, a group of lawmakers and government supporters gave a petition to Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz asking her to investigate Globovisión, a station with strong opposition views, the local press reported.
The legislators alleged that the broadcaster is trying to harm the image of the president by broadcasting a speech in which Chávez promoted the consumption of coca leaves, the daily El Universal reported. “Usted lo vio por Globovisión” (You have seen it in Globovisión) aired images of a presidential address before the National Assembly on January 10, during which Chávez informed Venezuelans about the benefits of chewing the leaves.
The deputies argued that the television station is skewing coverage. “Those images are trying to portray President Chávez as a drug addict, a drug trafficker,” news reports quoted Dugarte as saying. The legislator said Globovisión is sending Venezuelans a “subliminal message, and we cannot let this happen,” according to El Universal.
“This seems to be another attempt by Chávez supporters to restrict one of the few remaining critical media outlets in the country,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Globovisión has the right to report the president’s statements, as it has done in this case. We call on the attorney general’s office to ignore calls for an investigation into the television channel.”
Dugarte said that the petition is not trying to close the station or restrict its freedom of expression. But Chávez must be respected, he said. “It is good that the media inform, but they shouldn’t be biased and tell Venezuelans bare-faced lies,” said Dugarte.
The station’s director, Federico Ravell, said that despite the government’s attempt to intimidate the station, Globovisión will not change its editorial line.
Globovisión, a 24-hour news channel, only broadcasts in metropolitan Caracas and the state of Carabobo. Since the country’s oldest private television RCTV went off the air in May 2007, Globovisión is now the only broadcaster that continues to criticize the Venezuelan government. The other two private broadcasters, Televén and Venevisión, have softened their criticism, ridding themselves of their most critical programs.
The Venezuelan government’s unprecedented decision not to renew RCTV’s broadcast concession represented a major setback for free expression and democracy, according to CPJ’s annual report, Attacks on the Press.