Venezuela launches probe of TV channel's coverage

AP News
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Posted: Jun 30, 2011 7:19 PM
Venezuela launches probe of TV channel's coverage

Venezuela's telecommunications agency began a new investigation of the TV channel Globovision on Thursday, this time for its coverage of violence at two prisons where inmates have battled troops.

Globovision takes a strident stance against President Hugo Chavez's government. It has been the subject of six prior probes, including allegations of tax evasion and investigations of its coverage of protests, an earthquake and on-air remarks about Chavez.

Officials now are looking at whether the channel violated a broadcast law by showing images during the prison violence that could generate anxiety or disorder, National Telecommunications Commission director Pedro Maldonado said on state television.

He showed some of the channel's footage from mid-June after troops stormed two prisons trying to disarm inmates. The images included interviews with distraught and angry relatives, and footage of people fleeing tear gas amid protests outside the prison.

"They have allegedly sought to generate public anxiety, but specifically within the prison population," Maldonado said.

If authorities determine that Globovision violated broadcast regulations, the channel could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its gross revenues or could be ordered off the air for up to three days, Maldonado said.

Globovision condemned the investigation.

"Is this democracy?" said Maria Fernanda Flores, a vice president of the channel.

She called it the "seventh administrative case that they open against us for carrying out our work, which is none other than to inform."

Flores criticized authorities for not allowing the news media greater access at the Rodeo I and II prisons east of Caracas where the violence began two weeks ago.

"We aren't the ones to blame that it's been 15 days at Rodeo and still this government hasn't been able to calm down" the situation, she said.

Thousands of soldiers stormed Rodeo I prison on June 17 in a weapons hunt days after a bloody riot, prompting a furious reaction from armed prisoners.

Gunbattles at both that prison and the adjacent Rodeo II have killed at least one inmate and two soldiers dead and wounded at least 20 soldiers. The bodies of five other inmates have also been removed from the prisons, but authorities have not provided details about their deaths.

Authorities have been trying to retake control of Rodeo II prison, where hundreds of prisoners remain holed up resisting troops.