Venezuelan court upholds Globivison TV fine

AP News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2012 9:29 PM
Venezuelan court upholds Globivison TV fine

Venezuela's Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a $2 million fine against the opposition-aligned television station Globovision imposed by regulators for coverage of a prison uprising last year.

The court denied an appeal by Globovision's directors and journalists to overturn the fine imposed by Venezuela's National Telecommunications Commission. Regulators accused the channel of "apologizing for crime," "altering the public order" and promoting political intolerance during its coverage of the intervention by troops to quash rioting at El Rodeo prison.

The commission's director general, Pedro Maldonado, has said 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.

Ricardo Antela, a legal consultant for the station, said Tuesday that the court's ruling doesn't confirm the fine because other appeals are pending in other courts.

Globovision's directors and reporters will exercise "each and every one of the ordinary and extraordinary resources available to them under the law to defend their rights," Antela said.

The station has accused the government of President Hugo Chavez of trying to shut it down. It says the fine is "unpayable" and could affect its finances.

In its ruling Tuesday, the top court said it didn't see evidence that the fine would affect the station's functioning.

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's majority owner, Guillermo Zuloaga, fled into exile in 2010 after a court issued an arrest warrant on charges of usury and conspiracy. He has accused prosecutors of carrying out a vendetta on orders from Chavez.

Globovision, a 24-hour news network, has been the only anti-Chavez channel on the air 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.