Venezuelan Supreme Court Denies Restraining Order Against RCTV and Globovision

This week, Venezuela's Supreme Court (TSJ) denied a restraining order on two of the country's largest private television stations, Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) and Globovision. Also, the National Assembly urged the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) to discipline Globovision Director Alberto Ravell for attempting to incite panic in the population during an earthquake near Caracas on Monday.

By James Suggett – Venezuelanalysis.com

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The Venezuelan Supreme Court (ABN).
The Venezuelan Supreme Court (ABN).
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Mérida, May 7th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - This week, Venezuela's Supreme Court (TSJ) denied a restraining order on two of the country's largest private television stations, Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) and Globovision. Also, the National Assembly urged the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) to discipline Globovision Director Alberto Ravell for attempting to incite panic in the population during an earthquake near Caracas on Monday.

The Latin American Foundation for the Development of Equity (Fundaequidad) had requested the restraining order last November on the grounds that RCTV and Globovision had incited violence and encouraged a coup d'etat against the government, and that this was a threat to Fundaequidad's rights under Article 58 of the Constitution.

Article 58 says, "Communications are free and plural... Everyone has the right to timely, truthful, and impartial information, without censorship... as well as the right to reply and corrections when they are directly affected by inaccurate or offensive information."

To support its case, Fundaequidad had accused RCTV and Globovisión of false reporting, in violation of Article 58, when the news stations alleged that the government of Venezuela had links to the Colombian guerrilla group Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) last year.

The TSJ denied Fundaequidad's petition on the grounds that restraining orders are issued when the threat is "immediate and executable" and that "the eventual violation of rights that has been alleged should be a direct and immediate consequence of the act."

Fundaequidad "did not show how its personal or collective legal situation would be affected by the denounced acts," and "did not produce any indisputable evidence that conveys the imminence of the threat to violate rights of which they accuse the television stations," the TSJ decision stated.

With regard to the accusation that RCTV and Globovisión had lied about the government's links to the FARC, the TSJ decided it was an act which had already taken place. Instead of being a justification for a restraining order, it should be investigated as an infraction of the Telecommunications Law or Penal Code, according to the TSJ. 

National Assembly Urges Sanctions Against Globovision

On Wednesday, the National Assembly (AN) demanded that Venezuela's National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) penalize Globovision for infractions of the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television.

AN President Cilia Flores said Globovisión Director Alberto Ravell used the news of a moderate earthquake on Monday to "take advantage of nervousness and generate terror in the population."

After the earthquake that registered 5.4 on Richter Scale occurred on Monday morning, Ravell reported unofficial information before authorities had made informed declarations about the situation, and accused the government of being irresponsible for not responding to the situation fast enough.

Flores berated Ravell for making "irresponsible" political attacks against the government "in a moment in which the population was going through a difficult moment like an earthquake." The National Assembly voted to approve Flores's request that the CONATEL investigate the incident.

Last October, the Venezuelan government launched an investigation of a guest on a Globovision talk show, Rafael Poleo, who had made televised declarations which many officials considered a call to assassinate President Hugo Chávez.

In April, Chávez called for legal investigations of RCTV and Globovision, accusing them of having promoted the two-day April 2002 coup d'etat, during which they covered up and distorted events for two days in a way that aided the coup leaders.