Venezuelan Government and Opposition Take TV Case to EU

The General Director of the private TV channel RCTV, Marcel Granier, along with leaders of the political party Primero Justicia, met with the European Parliament Tuesday to protest the Venezuelan government's decision to not renew RCTV's broadcast license. The Venezuelan Ambassador to the European Union assured that the Venezuelan government would respond.

By Chris Carlson - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Mérida, April 26, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— The General Director of the private TV channel RCTV, Marcel Granier, along with leaders of the political party Primero Justicia, met with the European Parliament Tuesday to protest the Venezuelan government's decision to not renew RCTV's broadcast license. The Venezuelan Ambassador to the European Union assured that the Venezuelan government would respond by presenting the government's position to the Parliament as well. One European Parliament member already responded yesterday in support of the Venezuelan government's decision.

Granier and other opposition leaders are hoping to gain the support of the European Parliament against what they call the violation of the "freedom of expression" on the part of the Venezuelan government. On Monday and Tuesday they met with representatives of the conservative European Popular Party, as well as the Socialist and Green parties of the European Parliament.

But Venezuelan Ambassador to the European Union, Alejandro Fleming, assured that Marcel Granier's visit would produce no result in the European Parliament. He stated that he would confront Granier's "lies" in front of the Parliament and would expose him as an "agent of the neoliberal oligarchy."

The principal complaint of the opposition leaders is the refusal of the Venezuelan government to renew the RCTV broadcast license that expires on May 27th.  President Hugo Chávez announced the decision to not renew the license last December in a televised speech, condemning their participation in the 2002 coup attempt.

"The threat of Hugo Chávez' decision to close the channel fully violates article 13 of the Inter-American Human Rights Treaty which prohibits discrimination or punishment of journalists based on their editorial position," Granier explained at a press conference yesterday.

Granier also claimed that RCTV journalists have suffered attacks from "Government-organized bands," and that there have been attempts to burn the RCTV offices, which in his opinion has created an environment of self-censure among journalists. Granier called on all those who believe in democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression to speak out.

Julio Borges of the political party Primero Justicia, made the claim that the government's motives are in connection with Chávez proposal to allow for his reelection.

"Mr. Chávez has an obsession this year to obtain indefinite reelection, and he knows that the only obstacle to him achieving that is to keep RCTV open," he said.

The Venezuelan government, however, maintains that the private channel played a crucial role in the 2002 coup attempt against Chávez.  RCTV is also accused of censoring journalists who were covering the events that brought Chávez back to power in the days following the coup. The government accused the channel of carrying out a campaign of distortion and manipulation.

"Granier has come to Europe to say horrible things about the Venezuealan government," said the Venezuelan Ambassador Fleming. "When everyone in Venezuela knows that he actively participated in the coup attempt and collaborated with the Carmona dictatorship."

The Ambassador pointed out that "Europeans would never allow a channel on their televisions to incite violence, support coups, or break the constitutional order."

Fleming said that the Venezuelan Diplomatic Mission to the European Union would work to inform the Parliament about the situation, including the expiration of the broadcast license and the project for a new public service channel that will replace RCTV. This, according to the Ambassador, will allow for a democratization of the media in Venezuela.

"Instead of just one message, we will have many messages," he said. "That way democracy, knowledge, truth, and the Venezuelan people will win."

Although the Parliament has not officially announced its decision on the matter, a European Parliament member from Spain, Willy Meyer, said yesterday that the Venezuelan government's decision should be respected.

Meyer explained that "during the coup d'etat against President Hugo Chávez in 2002 the channel collaborated with the coup leaders and hid information."  He added that "it corresponds to the Venezuelan state to renew a broadcast license or not for the use of the radio-electric spectrum."

In addition to the European Parliament, opposition leaders are also meeting with Hans-Gert Pöttering, the president of the European Parliament and representatives of the European foundations Konrad Adenauer, FAES, and Robert Schumann.  Granier will also go to Brussels this Wednesday to meet with representatives of the European Commission and with members of the organization Reporters Without Borders to present his case about RCTV.

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