Reporters Without Border today deplored the legal irregularity and purely political intent of a administrative move yesterday against the privately-owned TV station Globovisión for allegedly violating the country’s electoral law and said it was clearly an attempt to cancel the station’s broadcasting licence.
“ Globovisión did nothing wrong by showing a speech by an election candidate claiming he had won,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “It did not say he had won and was simply doing its job of reporting.”
“The National Elections Council (CNE) said no rule had been broken. Why have none of the other media outlets which may have filmed the same footage been targeted? It seems anything goes in efforts to cancel the licence of a station that has criticised the government,” it said.
At President Hugo Chávez’ request, the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) told Globovisión on 27 November that action was being taken against it for breaking the electoral law, which bans media outlets giving election results before they are officially announced by the CNE. The 2004 law on TV and radio social responsibility provides for a broadcasting suspension of up to three days for this infraction and immediate licence cancellation if repeated. Globovisión ‘s licence is due to expire in 2013.
The CNE announced the results of regional elections at midnight on 24 November, except those in Carabobo and Táchira states, where opposition candidates Henrique Salas Feo and César Pérez Vivas won the governorships. Globovisión, along with other media outlets, then broadcast in the early hours a statement by Salas Feo that he had won. The two victories were confirmed a few hours later by the CNE.
Before the elections, Chávez has warned he would cancel the licences of radio and TV stations (including those run by the government) if they announced results in advance. The day after the 23 November vote, the president said he had given orders to Conatel concerning a “privately-owned TV station” he did not name.
Globovisión’s lawyer said Conatel had no power to punish a media outlet for an offence relating to election coverage. Only the CNE could do this and one of its members, Vicente Diaz, had questioned the validity of the infraction, saying the pre-result ban only applied until the first announcement of official results. Globovisión had complied with this by not broadcasting Salas Feo’s statement until two hours afterwards.
Globovisión is also being targeted for a remark broadcast in its 13 October programme “Aló Ciudadano” by opposition figure Rafael Poleo that Chávez “could end up like Mussolini”. He was reproached for saying this by the programme’s presenter, Leopoldo Castillo. The government immediately called it “a plan to assassinate the president.” But the 2004 law says that with “independent programmes” such as “Aló Ciudadano”, the media outlet is not responsible for their content (article 28).
Globovisión is the only non-satellite newsstation to criticise Chávez and has never been able to get a licence to broadcast outside the capital. Its main offices were recently attacked by pro-government activists and its head, Alberto Federico Ravell, is regularlly accused by the government of “conspiring” against the president.