RSS Feeds

In Venezuela, voice of dissent lowering volume

Monday - 5/27/2013, 8:36pm  ET

Talk show "Good Nights" host Franciso Bautista speaks during a news conference at his home in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, May 27, 2013. Bautista, who has often been critical of the government, announced on Twitter on Monday that he was leaving Globovision after a dispute with its new owners "over the censorship that they are imposing." A group of Venezuelan businessmen, including banker and insurance executive Juan Domingo Cordero, bought a majority stake in the station earlier this month, raising questions about its future direction. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles is also alleging that that new owners won't allow the station to broadcast his live speeches.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela's only TV channel that has been openly critical of the socialist government was in turmoil Monday after a popular talk show host was fired and the opposition's leader said he was being denied live coverage.

Changes in Globovision's editorial line had been expected after new owners took over the broadcaster earlier this month and signaled they would tone down the channel's confrontational stance.

But there had been no sign of a sharp deviation from Globovision's anti-government line until Henrique Capriles, who emerged as the chief political rival to the dying President Hugo Chavez last year, said Sunday that the channel no longer allowed live broadcasts of his speeches.

Prior to this year's presidential election, which Capriles narrowly lost to Chavez's hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, Globovision often carried live speeches by the opposition leader that were ignored by state media.

Another sign of the editorial shift came Monday when Francisco "Kico" Bautista, a popular talk show host, said he was fired for questioning Globovision's new leadership.

"This is a country of dreams and it deserves a government and a democracy that is better than what we have," Bautista said at a news conference.

"It cannot be that what you dream of is the life that we have, where there's not even toilet paper," he said, referring to chronic shortages of basic necessities.

Globovision did not immediately answer a request for comment, though its legal consultant, Ricardo Antela, tweeted Monday that he would advocate preserving an editorial line "independent of the government and other interest groups."

Antela also said he would attempt to fight for "the rights of citizens to receive truthful and opportune information, and opinions, without censorship."

Raimundo Urrechaga, an information ministry official, did not respond to an email seeking comment on Capriles' allegation that Globovision's new owners were pressured by authorities to prohibit the broadcast of his live speeches.

Critics lashed out at the channel on social media and wondered whether it would fire other editorial staff members who criticize the government. Globovision's Twitter account, one of Venezuela's most popular, was losing 10,000 followers by the hour Monday.

Tinedo Guia, president of Venezuela's largest journalists association, told The Associated Press that he has asked for a meeting with Globovision's new owners to find out "first-hand what editorial line they want to pursue."

A major change would mean "that democracy is finished in Venezuela, that everything will go down one single road ... The government can impose its editorial line on all stations, besides those it controls," Guia said.

Press freedom activists had criticized Chavez, who died in March, of taking restrictive measures to gradually weaken the country's private news media. Concerns have mounted over more tightening under Maduro.

In a speech Monday, Maduro took aim at CNN's Spanish service, accusing it of trying to destabilize the country and "openly calls for a coup d'
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.