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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Venezuela blocks 2 Colombian television networks in new action against international media organizations



Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel for its acronym in Spanish) has kicked two Colombian networks off the air.

Caracol Televisión was removed at midnight on Aug. 23. RCN Televisión was initially taken off of most cable operators, but finally removed from DirecTV at 5:32 p.m. on Aug. 24, according to Noticias RCN. NTN24, which is part of RCN Televisión, was kicked off the air in Venezuela in 2014.

Conatel explained its decision to remove the stations by saying they have "collaborated with the dissemination of a message that incited the assassination of the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro Moros," according to BBC Mundo. The telecommunications regulator said removing the networks was a "precautionary measure" in response to the opening of an administrative process. The press release cited former Conatel president Andrés Eloy Méndez as saying the channels "attacked Venezuela," BBC Mundo added.

The action comes just days after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos offered asylum to Venezuelan Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Díaz, who fled her country after she was fired on Aug. 4 and an arrest warrant was issued for her husband, a ruling-party deputy, as reported by the Miami Herald. Ortega said she has proof implicating President Nicolás Maduro of corruption.

Additionally, “Maduro recently denounced a ‘terrible campaign’ against his government and pointed directly at Colombian media like Caracol and newspapers El Tiempo and El Espectador,” Noticias Caracol and AFP reported.

Regarding the decision to take it off the air, Caracol said it “has always carried out its journalistic work in an objective and truthful manner, following principles considered to be fundamental: to offer journalism with context and to listen to all points of view.”

The channel said it hoped to return soon.

Condemnation followed from Colombian officials and regional organizations.

“I have to regret what happened, it is another demonstration of a regime that does not like freedoms, a regime that is restricting the freedoms of its citizens,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said of removing Caracol, according to Colombian newspaper El Espectador.

By removing the network, Venezuela “moved further away from the democratic system and is increasingly acting as a dictatorship,” the leader said, as reported by the paper.

Luis Almagro, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), said on Twitter, “Dictatorship fears the truth and strikes the media.” He added that taking Caracol and RCN off the air “is a step [further] in systematic violation of freedom of the press.”

RCN Televisión, Noticias RCN and the System of International News of RCN released a communication on Aug. 24 denouncing the “administrative act of censorship” against Caracol Televisión.

The channels said Conatel’s decision “confirms the systematic pattern of censorship that infuses decision-making in the Palacio de Miraflores, which not only confirms the authoritarian mood of the administration of Nicolás Maduro, but also seriously undermines the rights of civil society and media enshrined in the national, region and international standards that protect freedom of the press and of expression."

Caracol Televisión and RCN Televisión are the most recent, but not the only international outlets to be targeted by the Venezuelan government in the past year.

On Aug. 22, journalists from UK news agency Reuters were expelled from a press conference held by President Maduro, according to the National Union of Press Workers of Venezuela.

Various foreign correspondents have been barred from entering the country or kicked out, often ahead of massive protests called by the opposition.

Earlier this year, CNN en Español was taken off the airwaves in Venezuela in February. Colombian channel El Tiempo and Argentine channel Todo Noticias were also kicked off air months after.

At a press conference on Aug. 23, President Maduro criticized several international outlets, saying it was “hard to neutralize the lying power of CNN, Fox News and the BBC,” according to BBC World. He also said the BBC “has become the biggest propaganda apparatus for the military intervention” in his country.



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