Anti-Chavez TV channel says it will challenge fine

AP News
Posted: Oct 22, 2011 6:07 PM
Anti-Chavez TV channel says it will challenge fine

An opposition-aligned television channel said Saturday that it will appeal a fine of more than $2 million imposed by Venezuela's broadcast regulator.

Globovision said in a statement on its website that it will take "all legal actions" to challenge the penalty announced Tuesday by the National Telecommunications Commission. The agency accused the channel of violating broadcast regulations during its coverage of a bloody prison rebellion earlier this year.

The agency's chief, Pedro Maldonado, has said Globovision's violations included repeatedly airing emotional interviews with relatives of inmates during the violence. He said Globovision played such interviews about 300 times and added gunfire to the sound of some tracks.

The news channel, which has until Dec. 31 to pay, insists it has done nothing wrong and is being penalized for coverage that irritated President Hugo Chavez's government. It is the only channel in Venezuela that takes a staunchly anti-government stance.

International organizations such as Human Rights Watch have called the fine an abuse of power by the government.

The telecommunications agency insists its decision was in line with the law and came after a thorough investigation.

Globovision last year became the country's sole remaining anti-Chavez TV channel when another station, RCTV, was forced off cable and satellite TV. Other private TV channels have curbed their criticisms of Chavez in recent years.

Globovision has regularly clashed with the government, and its majority owner fled to the United States last year after prosecutors issued an arrest warrant on charges of usury and conspiracy. He called the charges part of a political vendetta.

Tensions increased during Globovision's coverage of the prison standoff, which pitted security forces against armed prisoners and lasted 27 days. The rebellion began in June after thousands of troops stormed one of two adjacent prisons seeking to disarm inmates days after a riot killed 22 people.

The raid set off gunfights between troops and inmates that killed one prisoner and two soldiers and wounded 20 troops. The standoff eventually ended following negotiations between officials and inmates.