Venezuela’s Globovision to be Investigated Over Calls for a Coup D’État

The national director of Venezuela's telecommunications agency announced on Monday that a request has been lodged with the Attorney General's Office to open a criminal investigation into private television station, Globovision, for broadcasting calls for a coup d'état and for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
CONATEL chief Diodado Cabello, Monday (VTV)

September 8, 2009, ( – The national director of
Venezuela's telecommunications agency (CONATEL), and minister of housing and
infrastructure, Diosdado Cabello, announced on Monday that a request has been
lodged with the Attorney General's Office to open a criminal investigation into
private television station, Globovision. The investigation would aim to
establish criminal liability over statements broadcast by Globovision calling
for a coup d'état and for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

denied claims by Globovision that the legal proceedings were aimed at curbing
freedom of expression.

never initiated legal proceedings over freedom of expression, only for
violating the law," he said. "We are not regulating freedom of expression," he
added, explaining that the new procedure against the privately owned television
company is for the "open and reckless violation" of regulations which the
station is obliged to abide by.

"The owners
of Globovision go around saying anything to defend themselves," Cabello
continued, "but they don't address the fundamental issue, that is, they are
violating the law."

"They call
for assassination [of the president], for a coup, and that is crime. There is
no excuse whatsoever…" he declared.

"The case
of Globovision has nothing to do with freedom of expression, but rather to do
with violation of the law. The calls for assassination and a coup, is slightly
different to saying something rude on TV," he responded, when asked about
offences allegedly committed in some late night talk shows on state owned
television station, VTV.

In addition
to incendiary statements by talk show hosts and guests – some of whom have
called for Chavez to be "lynched" – Globovision regularly broadcasts pre-filtered
text messages running along the bottom of the screen that often make calls for
the violent overthrow of the government, for a coup and for the assassination
of the president. This constitutes incitement to violence and would be part of
the investigation Cabello argued.

that can be applied for criminal use of the airwaves range from a 72 hour
closure up to the revocation of a broadcasting concession the CONATEL chief
explained. "When a television station calls for a coup and assassination,
something has to be done," he stated.

also said that investigations into a number of privately owned radio stations
that are operating illegally, without broadcasting concessions, or with
concessions that have expired, are continuing. On August 1 Cabello announced
that 32 radio stations and 2 regional television stations operating illegally
would be taken off air and the concessions for those frequencies granted to
community and public media. A further 29 private radio stations are slated for
closure, the minister confirmed last week, while decisions on the remaining 177
stations found to be operating without a valid license are still pending.

Cabello also
reported that the 102.3 FM frequency previously operated by the Caracas-based
Circuito Nacional Belfort (CNB), will be granted to the National Assembly.

Belfort, president of CNB and the Venezuelan Chamber of Broadcasters argued
that the radio frequency should not have been handed over to the National
Assembly, because CNB is appealing the radio closure and a decision by the
Supreme Court is still pending.

Cabello said CNB had never received government authorisation to broadcast on
that frequency.

Despite the
measures, the majority of the country's radio stations remain in private hands.
Private owners control 472 of Venezuela's FM stations, 243 are local
community-based operations and 79 are public, of the country's AM stations 184
are privately owned and 26 are public.

television, more than 60% of broadcasting concessions (65 stations) are in
private hands, while just under 35% (37) are community-based and six are state
owned television stations.

also denounced that a fake bomb was found outside the front doors of the
CONATEL offices Monday morning. The minister categorised it as an attempt to
intimidate the media watchdog.

However, he
countered, "This is not going to intimidate us. We are determined to do our job
and we will do it making use of the argument that they have never respected:
the law…and how it hurts them that the law is for everyone. That's the biggest
pain for them: that there are no privileges, that they can't just make a phone
call to reverse a decision against them."

The role of
the private media, which is closely aligned with the opposition, is heavily
questioned in Venezuela, due to the fact that in 2002 much of the country's
privately owned radio, television and print media, supported a two day military
coup against the Chavez government, and in some cases, such as RCTV (which has
since had its public broadcasting concession revoked, but still broadcasts via
cable and internet), participated directly, filming and broadcasting prepared
statements by military generals involved in the coup.