Caracas, May 24, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— Today, the European Parliament and the U.S. Senate took up the case of the impending broadcast license expiration of the oppositional Venezuelan TV network RCTV. While about 8% of European Parliamentarians passed a resolution urging Venezuela to respect freedom of expression, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to issue an opinion on Friday.
The European Parliament passed a resolution today with 65 of its 785 members voting 43 to 22, to call on the Venezuelan government to provide “an equal treatment under the law for all media, whether privately or publicly owned and irrespective of all political or ideological considerations.”
The resolution was supported by members from the conservative European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and the Liberal Group and opposed by the Socialists, the United European Left, and the Greens.
According to the resolution, the non-renewal of RCTV’s license "will deprive a large section of the public of a pluralist source of information, thus undermining the right of the press to criticize the authorities."
Also, the resolution calls for "a dialogue between the Venezuelan Government and the country’s private media" and deplores "the government’s total unwillingness to engage in dialogue in general, notably in the case of RCTV."
European parliamentarians opposed to the resolution, such as Mónica Frassoni, of the Italian Greens and who led the European elections observer delegation to Venezuela last December, said instead of the resolution one should “send a positive message to Venezuela which favors dialogue and non-interference in internal affairs.”
The resolution passed with only 8% of the 785 parliamentarians voting because the vote was called at the very end of the plenary session, when most had already left.
On Monday Republican U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (Indiana) and Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd (Connecticut) introduced a resolution to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “expresses profound concern” about the “ transgression against freedom of thought and expression that is being carried out in Venezuela…”
The resolution states that the Venezuelan government’s reasons for not renewing RCTV’s broadcast license, such as its participation in the coup attempt, is not sound because there are no court cases against RCTV directors in the matter.
According to the resolution, which is expected to pass the Senate on Friday, “the decision not to renew the concession of the television station RCTV is an assault against freedom of thought and expression and cannot be accepted by democratic countries…”
It concludes by calling on the OAS to become involved, saying that the Senate “ strongly encourages the Organization of American States to respond appropriately, with full consideration of the necessary institutional instruments, to such transgression.”
Bernardo Alvarez , Venezuela’s Ambassador to the U.S., sent a letter to Senator Christopher Dodd (PDF file) yesterday, in response to the resolution, stating that it is “based on misinformation and inaccuracies commonly found in the media.”
Alvarez goes on to say that RCTV’s license non-renewal is “a simple regulatory matter that was made according to the country’s constitution, laws, and public interest standards” and that the measure “will allow for broader access to the media and expand the diversity of views, opinion, culture, and entertainment available to all Venezuelans.”
The letter explains that RCTV has used the country’s best broadcast frequency for 53 years, which will now be freed-up frequency for a new public service Television station, known as TVes, which will feature programming from independent national producers.
With regard to the supposed lack of freedom of speech in Venezuela, Alvarez emphasizes that of the 81 television stations in Venezuela, 79 are private; of 709 radio stations, 706 are private; and all of the 188 newspapers are private. All of these “exercise their rights freely, often criticizing the government in strident terms.”