BBC: Venezuela court freezes assets of anti-Chavez Globovision

June 29, 2012 8:19 amComments OffViews:

The Supreme Court in Venezuela has frozen $5.7m (£3.6m) in assets belonging to a news channel highly critical of President Hugo Chavez.

Globovision accused the government of trying to intimidate it ahead of the start of campaigning for October’s presidential election.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles said the government was attempting to silence independent media.

Globovision is the only anti-Chavez channel still on air in Venezuela.

It had been challenging a $2.1m (£1.3m) fine imposed by regulators over the coverage of disturbances at the El Rodeo prison, outside Caracas in June 2011, in which more than 20 people were killed.

Media regulator Conatel said the coverage “promoted hatred and intolerance for political reasons”.

Globovision had said it could not afford to pay the original fine.

“This decision doesn’t surprise us because we are about to begin an election campaign in which the government tends to take judicial actions to intimidate the independent private media,” said channel vice-president Maria Fernanda Flores.

A lawyer for Globovision, Ricardo Antela, said they would now pay the original fine to avoid bigger sanctions which could have led to losing their broadcasting licence.

He said once the fine is paid, the court order freezing Globovision assets should be lifted.

Coup attempt

The election campaign begins on Sunday, with President Hugo Chavez seeking a third term in the 7 October vote.

Mr Chavez has accused Globovision of supporting a 2002 coup attempt, and of plotting to assassinate him.

Venezuela’s opposition has frequently accused Mr Chavez’s government of trying to gag the media.

Several other private radio and television stations have been forced off air for failing to comply with regulations requiring them to broadcast government information.

The government has frequently accused private media companies of using their power to try to undermine the democratic authorities.

State-owned media has expanded dramatically since Mr Chavez took office in 1999.

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