Mérida, May 13th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuela's National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) began inspections of all radio and television stations in the country on Tuesday, two days after President Hugo Chávez vowed to put an end to the irresponsible behavior of one of the largest television stations, Globovision.
"This is going to stop. We are no longer going to tolerate this crazy man with a cannon firing at the whole world! Enough!" said Chávez on his weekly presidential talk show on Sunday, in reference to the director of Globovision, Alberto Ravell. "One thing is criticism, and another thing is conspiracy," he said.
Shortly after a brief earthquake near Caracas last Monday, Ravell reported unofficial information before authorities had made informed declarations about the situation, and used the occasion to bash the government for not responding quickly enough. The National Assembly subsequently requested that CONATEL punish Globovision for the incident.
The government and civil society organizations have strongly criticized Globovision for its distortion of events surrounding the April 2002 coup d'etat against Chávez which favored the coup plotters, its virulently anti-Chávez spin on the news, sympathy for violent anti-government protestors, and its biased coverage of last November's regional and local elections.
Also, Ravell was filmed upon arriving to Venezuela in a private jet from Puerto Rico with the leaders of Venezuela's three most prominent opposition parties in January. A reporter from the Caracas-based Avila TV cited an email among the leaders that allegedly revealed that they had met with U.S. State Department officials. The men told reporters that they had met with Chileans about the campaign strategy they used to vote the Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, out of power in a plebiscite in 1988.
On Sunday, Chávez guaranteed that Globovision's actions would not go unpunished. "To the Venezuelan people, I say: This is not going to continue like this...This will end or my name is not Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías!" he said.
In a press conference at the headquarters of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Foreign Relations Minister Nicolás Maduro accused Globovision of "media terrorism."
"It is one thing to inform about a seismic movement, and another thing to use a natural event to try to generate panic and terror in people and take advantage of it politically," said Maduro. "Ravell and Globovision are repeat offenders in media terrorism against Venezuelan democracy and we are not going to sit with our arms crossed," he concluded.
Helena Salcedo, the director of the government radio station RNV, said Globovision's programming is a public health issue. "There are psychological studies that show that the manipulation by these [media] companies has caused psychotic dissociations in viewers," said Salcedo.
Ravell responded to the accusations in an interview on another prominent opposition television station, Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). "I am not a crazy man, nor do I have a cannon," said Ravell. "We are going to continue the fight, although the people are not with us, we feel that Venezuelans have not accompanied you [RCTV] or us," he said.
Ravell repeated false rumors spread by the prominent opposition media, saying that Venezuelans will not follow the lead of the opposition "until [the government] puts a Cuban couple in the room next to them, when it takes their kids away from them, when it no longer lets them leave the country."
"Thanks to this government, poor people who cannot pay for cable television cannot see their favorite soap opera on RCTV," Ravell added.
In May 2007, RCTV's twenty-year broadcasting license expired, and the government did not renew it because RCTV had hundreds of cases against it for violations of the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television. A publicly funded, independently programmed television station called TVES replaced RCTV, and RCTV continues to broadcast on cable.
Globovision faces sanctions including the temporary suspension of its broadcasting license, but it is not in danger of losing its license, according to National Assembly Legislator Iris Valera, who called Globovision on the air this week to clarify the issue.
"This is not about a total closure of a media outlet... it is about putting them under review so that they improve their conduct," said Valera. "Globovision and some other television channels cannot continue acting the way they act with impunity."
The opening of CONATEL's investigations comes amidst other denunciations of misconduct by prominent private media outlets. This week, an editorial in the newspaper El Universal published the names, home address, and swimming practice location of the children of Jorge Rodríguez, the mayor of Libertador Municipality in Caracas. Previously, Globovision published the photo and personal information of District Judge Maryori Calderon, who sentenced three metropolitan police officers for their involvement in the shootings of civilian protestors in the lead up to the April 2002 coup. Both Mayor Rodriguez and Judge Calderon considered the acts to be violations of their privacy and threats against their well-being.