CARACAS, Saturday June 17, 2006 | Update
* During the delivery of Russian AK-103 assault rifles to Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez said he has ordered the revision of concessions the Venezuelan State granted to television operators, which are due in 2007, according to the ruler.
Chávez said that the operators do whatever they want in the name of "a supposed freedom of speech." "We cannot act in such an irresponsible way, we cannot continue granting concessions to a small group of people for them to operate TV channels in the radio-electric space that belongs to the State -that is, to the people- and use it against ourselves, right under our very nose. I don't give a damn about the opinion of world's oligarchies. I care about my country's fate."
* The independent US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Thursday issued a press release to reject President Chávez' threats to block the renewal of broadcasting licenses for privately owned television and radio stations that oppose his government.
"We urge President Chávez to refrain from making these kinds of menacing statements which could have a chilling effect on the press," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper, AFP reported. "The allocation of broadcast frequencies should be based on technical considerations not politics."
CPJ underscored the statements made by Venezuelan Information and Communication minister William Lara, who said that the Venezuelan government was legally entitled to refuse license renewals to stations whose behavior it deemed "to be in violation of the law." He said he had "noticed a systematic tendency to violate the law."
* President Chávez' threat to review broadcasting licenses of private TV networks in Venezuela caused concern among broadcasters, who labeled Chávez' remarks as an intimidation and smoke screen.
"This is a new attempt at intimidating the serious, professional job of journalists," said Oswaldo Quintana, an executive officer with the Venezuelan Television Federation and TV network RCTV Legal Affairs Chief Executive. "They are trying to distract attention from the electoral issue."
Local news TV network Globovisión director Alberto Federico Ravell told AP that Chávez' announcement amounts to "another threat from an authoritarian president who does not believe in freedom of speech."
Ravell said Chávez intends to have TV networks behave the way he wants during the present electoral year.
Quintana said RCTV broadcasting license is valid through 2020. Any review or termination of such agreement would be a violation of the National Constitution, the Telecommunications Law, and the Inter American Convention on Human Rights.
Globovisión legal counsel Ana Cristina Núñez said this news TV network's broadcasting license is in force through 2015.
She added that, if the government intends to revoke licenses -just like the Information and Communication minister William Lara said on Thursday-, then it has to prove that TV channels have breached the agreements' terms.
* Ombudsman Germán Mundaraín Friday agreed with President Chávez' proposal to review TV broadcasting licenses in Venezuela.
At the National Assembly, the official labeled the debate as timely, clarifying that this discussion should be seen as an attack against the private media.
He ratified that in Venezuela there is freedom of speech, and therefore any debate can emerge "without any need to make such a fuss." He was referring to the fact that a number of sectors have rejected Chávez' remarks in this connection.
Mundaraín advocated formulas to avoid licenses from being granted with a view to favor economic groups, but to "put a public service in the hands of many people."
He claimed TV broadcasting licenses should be used to inform, entertain, educate, make calls for peace and coexistence.
* The National Assembly Science, Technology and Social Communication Committee supported President Chávez' proposal to review broadcasting licenses granted to private TV networks.
The committee head, Rosario Pacheco, made the statement on Friday, and claimed that Chávez' warning was the response to "a clamor of a society that wants equality and equity."
The ruling party parliamentarian said private media are "against the construction of a new model of society, designed for peace, harmony, and most sublime interest of the country," official news agency ABN reported.
Maria Daniela Espinosa