CARACAS – President Hugo Chavez’s ruling party stepped up attacks on a private television channel, accusing it of “media terrorism” for getting ahead of the government in airing a report on an earthquake.
The attacks on Globovision, an independent 24-hour news channel, came a day after Chavez charged that private radio and television stations were “inciting hatred” and hinting that they were in for “a little surprise.”
Chavez’s United Socialist Party followed up Monday, saying it would back measures by the state “to end media terrorism.”
Globovision is “a private television channel that has generally been at the service of media terrorism, permanent conspiracy and seditious political activity,” said Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, the party’s vice president.
The National Telecommunications Commission announced Thursday it was taking action against Globovision for airing a report May 4 about a 5.4 magnitude earthquake in central Venezuela before the government had released an official report.
The commission, which regulates the use of the airwaves, said the Globovision report “could generate alarm, fear, anxiety or panic in the population, producing in individuals a feeling that they are in danger and unprotected.”
Globovision said the government sanctions could force it to go off the air for 72 hours.
Alberto Ravell, the director of the channel, last week called the action “ridiculous.”
“This is the first time that they are going to sanction a channel for airing information that was aimed at reassuring Venezuelans,” he said.
But Chavez, in a weekly television address on Sunday, reminded his viewers that the state has the power to issue or renew broadcasters’ licenses to use the public airwaves.
“Don’t be mistaken, they are playing with fire, manipulating, inciting hatred… every day, television stations, radio broadcasters, written press,” Chavez said. “I will only tell them and the Venezuelan people that it’s not going to continue like that.”
In May 2007, the government refused to renew the license of another private television channel, RCTV, which was critical of Chavez.
Although off the air, RCTV continues to be seen in Venezuela from Miami via cable and satellite systems.