Venezuelan TV channel pays $2.2 million fine

AP News
Posted: Jun 29, 2012 5:00 PM
Venezuelan TV channel pays $2.2 million fine

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Venezuelan television channel Globovision on Friday paid a fine of more than $2 million imposed by regulators, calling it an unfair penalty but saying it had no choice after the Supreme Court ordered an embargo on its assets for nonpayment.

The channel, which takes a critical stance against President Hugo Chavez's government, has been trying to challenge the fine. Broadcast regulators slapped the penalty on the channel last year for its coverage of a prolonged prison uprising.

"We came to pay the unjust and disproportionate fine," said Carlos Zuloaga, Globovision's vice president, who spoke outside the Supreme Court building with other station executives, accompanied by employees and supporters.

Globovision paid the fine a day after the Supreme Court ordered an embargo on nearly $5.7 million in assets belonging to the channel. Zuloaga said the station paid about 9.4 million bolivars, equivalent to $2.2 million.

He said the court should immediately lift the embargo order now that the fine has been paid. He noted the channel still has legal appeals pending and said Globovision "is going to continue fighting."

"We have an obligation to keep Globovision open," he said.

Telecommunications regulators last year imposed the fine against Globovision accusing it of "justifying crime," ''altering the public order" and promoting political intolerance during its coverage of an intervention by troops to quash rioting at El Rodeo prison.

The telecommunication commission's director general, Pedro Maldonado, said at the time that for four days Globovision broadcast 18 emotional reports with relatives of the prisoners and repeated them almost 300 times, adding the sound of gunfire over the reports.

The June 2011 prison riot erupted after troops raided one of two adjacent prisons looking for weapons. The raid set off gunfights that left three dead, and the standoff finally ended with negotiations after 27 days. Authorities said four inmates who escaped also were slain by soldiers.

Globovision has accused Chavez's government of trying to shut it down, and has said it did nothing wrong. Government officials have repeatedly accused the channel of violating broadcast regulations.

Explaining the Left: Part II
Dennis Prager

Press freedom groups condemned the Supreme Court's decision ordering the embargo on the channel's assets.

Reporters Without Borders called it "a dangerous precedent for freedom to report the news, given the disproportionate financial penalty that threatens the very survival of the media organization."

The Inter American Press Association similarly criticized the court's order in a statement, saying it was a "flagrant attack on press freedom."

Globovision, a 24-hour news network, provides a key outlet for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles to get out his message ahead of Venezuela's Oct. 7 presidential vote, while state television and other state-run media are largely monopolized by coverage of Chavez's appearances and other government events.

Globovision has been the only stridently anti-Chavez channel on the air in Venezuela since another opposition-aligned station, RCTV, was forced off cable and satellite TV in 2010. RCTV had been booted off the open airwaves in 2007 when the government refused to renew its broadcast license.