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Venezuela25 September 2008

Interior minister justifies attack against Globovisión claimed by pro-government militants

Reporters Without Borders condemned open support for attacks against the privately-owned media voiced by representatives of the state and ruling party after pro-government militants of the “La Piedrita” collective in western Caracas claimed responsibility for a tear gas attack against Globovisión.

The militants also distributed tracts calling the news channel a “war objective” and threatening the TV’s director, Alberto Federico Ravell in the 22 September attack against the headquarters of the privately-owned television station in the capital.

While promising an investigation into the incident, the interior and justice minister, Tarek El Aissami, accused the channel of “conspiracy” against head of state, Hugo Chavez.

“This media war, which is unprecedented of its kind in Venezuela, is heating up again in the run-up to regional and municipal elections on 23 November, making other such attacks likely, that could also hit journalists in the public sector or those seen as pro-government,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“Unfortunately, the statements by Tarek El Aissami and other government officials, show that not only are the authorities doing nothing to curb this violence but are encouraging it.”

“Without forgetting the compliant attitude of some privately-owned media during the 2002 coup attempt against President Hugo Chavez, it is unacceptable that this episode should be constantly used as a motive for gagging, harassing and even threatening any media that is critical of the government”, it said.

“The state is no longer playing its part as guarantor of civil peace and respect of basic freedoms. This media war can only be ended by a halt to this paranoia about the conspiracy aims ascribed to the private media,” it added.

The country’s leading public channel Venezolana de Television (VTV) on 10 September 2008, reported on air an “assassination plot” against the President Chavez. Producer of the propaganda programme La Hojilla (the razor blade), Mario Silva, also spokesperson for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and candidate for governor of Carabobo state in the centre-north, broadcast a telephone conversation between members of the military suspected of involvement in the plot.

Five days later, on 15 September, Diosdado Cabello, former vice-president and candidate for re-election as governor of Miranda state, northern Venezuela, accused Alberto Federico Ravell, Miguel Enrique Otero editor of El Nacional and Andrés Mata, editor of El Universal, of “incitement to murder” the head of state, threatening, “We are coming for you, Ravell”.

The communications and information minister, Andrés Izarra, had in the meantime condemned what he called the private media “plot”. After the attack against Globovision, Lina Ron, head of the Venezuelan People’s Union party, sang the praises of the “magnificent Venezuelan militias”, in reference to the perpetrators.

“This attack is the result of violent accusations made against the channel in the past few days”, said Alberto Federico Ravell, who indicated that he was ready to be publicly questioned by the National Assembly.

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