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article imageVenezuelan radio stations being shut down by government order

By Stephanie Dearing     Aug 2, 2009 in Politics
Venezuela has ordered that 34 of Venezuela's's radio stations be shut down because of licencing irregularities, such as illegal transfers or lack of renewals.
Another 200 or more radio stations may also be closed in the near future. CNN said "station owners have told Venezuelan press that the closures are politically motivated." Chavez told the media that he was "democratizing the airwaves." At least one station owner plans to appeal the closure in Venezuela's Supreme Court. The move has been condemned by the group, Reporters Without Borders, which said “In any country that respects the rule of law, a broadcast media suspected of using a frequency in an irregular manner would have been warned in advance that proceedings were being initiated against it and its representatives would have been given a chance to defend themselves or file an appeal.” Radio station staff and Venezuelans are protesting the government crackdown.
The Chavez-led government faced stiff criticism from Human Rights Watch after a bill was introduced in legislature on July 30th that will crack down on "media crimes." Should the bill pass, those convicted will receive jail terms. Human Rights Watch also says that Chavez had forced ads criticizing a "legislative proposal" off the air in July. There was also new legislation introduced that will force cable stations to broadcast Chavez's live speeches; and legislation that limits the broadcast of radio news reports in Venezuela. T
he Americas Director for Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco, said: "What we are witnessing is the most comprehensive assault on free speech in Venezuela since Chávez came to power. With the exception of Cuba, Venezuela is the only country in the region that shows such flagrant disregard for universal standards of freedom of expression."
Earlier this year, Chavez had seized sea ports and air strips in at least four states in the country, which are governed by politicians known to oppose Chavez, an action criticised by opponents, who claim Chavez is working to silence his opponents.
A democratic country, Venezuela is governed by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Chavez was elected president in 1998, and was most recently "overwhelmingly" re-elected to power in Venezuela's 2006 election. The 55 year old President is the great grandson of rebel leader, Pedro Perez Delgado.
In 1992, Chavez led a failed coup d'etat against then-leader Carlos Andres Perez, serving two years in prison for the attempt.
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