A judge has ordered a weekly newspaper strongly critical of President Hugo Chavez and his allies to temporarily stop publishing while prosecutors proceed with slander charges against its director, the Attorney General's Office announced Tuesday.

Prosecutors accuse Dinorah Giron, director of Sexto Poder, of committing the crimes by allowing the Aug. 20 publication of photo montage that ridiculed several female public officials by likening them to cabaret dancers.

Giron was released from police custody on Tuesday _ two days after she was arrested.

She has been prohibited from publicly discussing her case or leaving the country, according to a statement released by the Attorney General's Office. She must appear before a judge once every 15 days as prosecutors proceed with the case against her, it said.

Giron denies any wrongdoing and representatives of the Miami-based Inter American Press Association, or IAPA, expressed concern the charges against her constitute a violation of freedom of expression.

The charges against Giron stem from the publication on Sunday of an edition carrying an adulterated photograph of six public servants including the president of Venezuela's Supreme Court, director of the country's elections council and its top anti-corruption official.

The satirical photograph depicting the women as cabaret dancers appeared under a headline reading: "The Powerful Women of the Revolution," a reference to the political movement led by Chavez.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquin called the ban "an abuse of power that encroaches on the Venezuelan people's right to information."

"This reaction is a new step by the regime of President Hugo Chavez against free speech," Claudio Paolillo, co-chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information said in a statement.