July 22, 2009
Dear Mr. Cabello:
The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by your recent announcement that regulators may revoke the concessions of 240 radio stations for failing to update their registration papers. We believe that this decision is yet another attempt by Venezuelan authorities to expand pro-government media, control the flow of information, and suppress dissent.
On July 3, the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL), Venezuela’s regulatory agency announced that 154 FM and 86 AM radio stations failed to update their data with regulators by a June 23 deadline, according to local news reports. During a press conference, you said that CONATEL will immediately open administrative procedures against the 240 stations to revoke their licenses, and eventually restore their concessions to the state. CONATEL did not disclose the names of the radio stations that have allegedly failed to register their data.
On July 9, during a presentation before the National Assembly, you announced plans to further regulate cable and satellite television stations that broadcast largely Venezuelan-produced content. Your country’s broadcast regulations, which contradict international standards on freedom of expression, include a measure requiring all broadcasters to carry live President Hugo Chávez Frías’ cadenas–his nationwide simultaneous radio and television broadcasts. In your speech before the legislative assembly, you said both decisions are intended to “democratize the airwaves.”
During a July 16 interview with state-owned television station Venezolana de Televisión, you said that the government could also take over 50 percent of Globovisión’s license because one of the two people granted the concession has died, the press reported. The private television network’s general director, Alberto Federico Ravell, responded by saying that the license is held by a company, not individuals.
Globovisión, known for its antigovernment views, has been the target of a barrage of government investigations. Regulators have recently opened five administrative proceedings against the broadcaster. The latest came on July 3 after Globovisión aired an advertising campaign aimed at defending private property. The Venezuelan administration, as it has been widely reported in the media, is engaged in a campaign of nationalization and has confiscated many private properties in the country. According to CONATEL, the ads contained messages that could create “anguish, anxiety, and fear,” and promote public disorder. Globovisión faces four other administrative procedures. If CONATEL sanctions it once, it can face a suspension for up to 72 hours; a second sanction can result in the revocation of the broadcaster’s license. The commission has also requested that the attorney general’s office determine whether the broadcaster is criminally liable for violating the telecommunications law.
CPJ believes that your recent announcements and the persecution of Globovisión is part of a strategy to strengthen state media in order to control the flow of information and limit critical ideas and opinions.
The ongoing battle against the private media has fostered an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that is having a negative impact on the work of the press. While your government has the right to regulate the airwaves, it must not use this authority to violate Venezuelans’ basic human right to seek and receive information, as established by the Constitution. We call on you to put an end to the persecution of critical media outlets, and to guarantee that the regulation of all broadcast concessions is unbiased and transparent.