Venezuela TV channel urges Chavez talks

Other News Materials 14 June 2009 04:50 (UTC +04:00)

A private Venezuelan TV news channel threatened with closure by President Hugo Chavez urged dialogue with the government on Saturday after authorities fined the station and raided one top executive's property, Reuters reported.

Chavez's targeting of Globovision, a fiercely anti-government channel, has fueled concerns over press freedom in the OPEC nation, where the government two years ago refused to renew a broadcasting license to another station.

A socialist allied with Cuba, Chavez has long accused Globovision of seeking to undermine his government and promote civil unrest. But critics say renewed threats to the channel illustrate his increasingly tough line with opponents.

"The president should know that if he wants to talk we are ready," Globovision owner Alberto Ravell told reporters. "We should have a dialogue like in any civilized country. Our door is always open, now it is up to the president to decide."

Closing down Globovision would likely trigger international criticism of Chavez. But it could further weaken his opponents and would be popular with core Chavez's supporters who blame the channel for backing a brief 2002 coup and an oil strike aimed at ousting him.

Globovision says it has broken no law and says it is being harassed for its editorial line. But a government watchdog is now reviewing all private broadcast permits.

"The president has called and told us to behave correctly or he'll close us down," Ravell said. "But what is behaving correctly? Not informing people?"

Authorities this month hit Globovision with a $2 million back-tax fine and officials have twice raided its president's property, saying he was illegally reselling cars and had kept rare stuffed animals. He has been charged with usury.

Small groups of Globovision supporters took to the streets in mainly wealthier parts of the capital Caracas on Saturday to collect cash to help the station pay its tax fine.

Chavez remains popular after spending oil wealth on projects for the poor as part of his socialist revolution. The former soldier is nationalizing key industries and carrying out an offensive on foes, including stripping powers from some elected opposition leaders.