VHeadline.com readers: Help defend freedom of speech in Venezuela

Venezuela Today reports that a Caracas television station has just been shut down … “not one of Venezuela’s quasi-monopolistic commercial stations that is virulently opposed to President Chavez’s reforms. The media outlet that has been gagged is one of the country’s main community television stations … and it’s not President Chavez who’s preventing it from broadcasting. It’s one of his fiercest opponents, the ex-journalist and Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas, Alfredo Pena.”

The National Network of Venezuelan Community Media (RNMCV), ATTAC-Venezuela and the National Association of Free, Alternative & Community Media (ANMCLA) says in a declaration issued today that “Pena’s confiscation of Catia TV’s transmitter and audiovisual equipment has deprived the poor communities of western Caracas of their right to receive independent information. It is a measure that is eerily reminiscent of what took place during the April 2002 coup d’etat when a group of reactionary military officers briefly kidnapped democratically-elected President Hugo Chavez.”

During the last April coup d’etat community media outlets were invaded and some community media journalists were arrested and tortured in the hope that commercial TV channels … who were decisive players in the coup … could fully monopolize the airwaves. “This repression, however, didn’t prevent the community media journalists from continuing, at the risk of their lives, to inform their communities and the outside world about what was really happening in Venezuela.”

“Today, Sunday, angry citizens have taken to the streets in Caracas to demand the reopening of Catia TV … a community television station legalized in 2002 thanks to a new set of regulations that are internationally recognized as a major democratic advance in terms of freedom of speech. These regulations grant communities radio and television frequencies that are renewable every five years and allows them to produce programs that are free of the influence of any economic or political power.”

The statement continues: “Recently, the Canadian social justice activist Naomi Klein expressed her dismay at seeing that certain Human Rights NGOs like Reporters Without Borders spend their time blaming the Chavez government for being a threat to freedom of speech while failing to report that the elite-owned commercial media wage campaigns of intimidation and denigration aimed at alternative and community media. Campaigns that have coincided with physical attacks and media outlet closures, such as the one Catia TV has just undergone.”

National Network of Venezuelan Community Media (RNMCV)
ATTAC-Venezuela
National Association of Free, Alternative & Community Media (ANMCLA).

PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW:

Write to demand that ex-journalist and current Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas Alfredo Pena must stop preventing Catia TV from broadcasting and to allow this community media outlet to continue to pursue its job of informing the community.

Write to him at the following email address: it@alcadiamayor.gov.ve
CC: puebloalzao@aporrea.org and ameriques@rsf.org