The Canadian Press reports:
Opponents of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez are marching to demand the return of an opposition-sided television station that was booted off public airwaves this week last year.
Many are still upset by Chavez’s decision not to renew the broadcast licence of Radio Caracas Television, or RCTV, which had been critical of his government.
Chavez replaced the network with a state-run channel that regularly transmits pro-government propaganda.
RCTV now only airs on cable.
Chavez has repeatedly accused RCTV of violating broadcasting laws and inciting a failed coup in 2002.
RCTV executives have denied any wrongdoing.
Several thousand people marched through Venezuela’s capital Sunday, shouting anti-Chavez slogans and demanding that RCTV’s broadcast licence be returned.
Of course, the story is not that simple. RCTV played a proactive role in the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez. The dominant discourse within the U.S. press and the Venezuelan opposition is that the move against RCTV demonstrated that Chavez was surely moving towards authoritarianism. Few press accounts though, mention that Chavez simply did not renew RCTV’s licence to use the public airwaves. The company, from the beginning, was given the option of moving to cable, something which they originally refused but have now done.
For an alternative perspective, read Patrick McElwee’s article Venezuela and RCTV which was published by CounterPunch in May of last year.
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has been the subject of many controversies. His critics often accuse him of laying the groundwork for dictatorship, despite the democratic credentials of his government. Chávez was democratically elected in 1998 and again in 2000 under a new constitution. He then won a recall election in 2004, which was certified by observers from the Carter Center and the Organization of American States. Chávez was re-elected last December by 63 percent of voters, a result again certified by international observers including the OAS and the European Union. Chávez has pledged to accelerate policies that have given poor Venezuelans vastly increased access to health care, education, and subsidized food, and in the last three and a half years of political stability, a remarkable 40 percent increase in the economy.
Throughout this process of increasing voter and citizen participation and electoral democracy, the Venezuelan opposition and their allies in the U.S. press have told us that authoritarianism was just around the corner. They now say it has arrived. The immediate focus of their concern is the president’s decision not to renew the broadcast license of a major television network that is openly opposed to the Chávez government. Their free speech concerns have been echoed by Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists. On the other hand, the vice-chair of the European Parliament’s Freedom Commission, ruling out a resolution on the issue, has said the non-renewal has nothing to do with human rights.
Here are the basic facts. Rádio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) is one of the biggest television networks in Venezuela. It airs news and entertainment programs. It is also openly opposed to the government, including by supporting a military coup that briefly ousted Chávez in 2002. During the oil strike of 2002-2003, the station repeatedly called upon its viewers to come out into the street and help topple the government. As part of its continuing political campaign against the government, the station has also used false allegations, sometimes with gruesome and violent imagery, to convince its viewers that the government was responsible for such crimes as murders where there was no evidence of government involvement.
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