Venezuelan Opposition TV Channel Globovision to Pay Overdue Fine

Opposition television channel Globovision has said it will pay a fine of US $2.2 million (9.3 million bolivars) today, eight months after it was first issued by Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel). 

By Ewan Robertson
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Globovision newsroom (Carlos Mesa/ UN).
Globovision newsroom (Carlos Mesa/ UN).

Edinburgh, 29 June 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Opposition television channel Globovision has said it will pay a fine of US $2.2 million (9.3 million bolivars) today, eight months after it was first issued by Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel).

Globovision announced yesterday it would pay the fine after Venezuela’s Supreme Court ordered an embargo on US $5.7 million (Bs 24.4 million) of Globovision’s assets to force compliance with the fine’s payment. The embargo order also requested that Venezuela’s Central Bank calculate the interest due on the fine, which should have been paid by 1 January this year.

State regulator Conatel issued the fine in October last year after deeming that Globovision had broken articles 27 and 29 of the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television during its coverage of the El Rodeo prison hostage situation in June 2011.

According to Conatel, Globovision had deliberately attempted to manipulate information and create a situation of uncertainty and anxiety in Venezuela by replaying interviews of distraught prisoners’ mothers 269 times over four days and adding the sound of gunfire to reports.

Globovision went to the Supreme Court to appeal the fine, however the appeal was denied on 15 March. Conatel then went to the Supreme Court to demand that payment of the fine be enforced, with Conatel director Pedro Maldonado arguing that as Globovision had not “shown interest” in paying the penalty, legal action was necessary.

In response to yesterday’s Supreme Court embargo order, Globovision released a press statement complaining it was being “forced” to pay the fine, with the station’s lawyer Ricardo Antela stating “if this embargo was applied it would mean the definitive closure of the channel”.

The channel had previously claimed that the original fine, equivalent to 7.5% of Globovision’s gross earnings in 2010, represented the “economic bankruptcy” of the station. Other groups, such as NGO Journalists for Truth, argued that in light of annual earnings of US $30.2 million (Bs130 million) the station was not in danger of bankruptcy.

After paying the Conatel fine today Globovision representatives will immediately request the embargo order against its assets be dropped.

An independent decision

Globovision’s press statement charged the Supreme Court’s embargo order as “grotesque and despotic”, arguing that the original fine was unjustified and that legal channels of appeal had still not been exhausted, with proceedings ongoing in the Administrative Dispute Court.

The Administrative Dispute Court had already denied a Globovision appeal to suspend the Conatel fine, which was then passed onto the Supreme Court where it was also quashed.

The right-wing channel also claimed public authorities were seeking “communicational hegemony” ahead of the presidential elections later this year, with the station’s vice president, Maria Fernanda Flores, declaring that the Supreme Court’s decision was “a new blow against freedom of expression and a way to intimidate” Globovision.

The government’s information minister Andres Izarra also commented on the matter, stating that “the Supreme Court made an independent decision. The [national] executive has nothing to do with today’s decision by the TSJ”.

He further declared to press that “the state of law rules” in Venezuela, and that Globovision was first able to go to the Supreme Court to appeal the fine but it was turned down.

Globovision was previously fined US $3 million by the government in June 2009, for tax evasion and using unauthorised airwaves.

The opposition channel also manipulated information and participated in the short lived coup against current president Hugo Chavez in April 2002.