Venezuelan media on alert

Venezuelan premier Hugo Chavéz has launched a vociferous attack against the opposition media, accusing radio and TV channels of conspiracy.

“Enough is enough”, the former paratrooper warned during his regular Sunday television broadcast (in Spanish). “They’ve gone to far.”

Chavéz, who recently won a referendum eliminating limited presidential terms, issued a veiled warning to audiovisual media that their licences could be revoked.
“They [the public airwaves] are not yours, and they are subject to making responsible use of them”, he warned.

The threats come after a week which saw Venezuela’s self-proclaimed ‘21st Century Socialist’ nationalise private oil service companies.

It is by no means the first time that Chavez has had a run-in with Venezuela’s anti-government media. In 2007, the licence of the popular television network RCTV was not renewed after accusations that it aided a coup attempt five years previously.

Everyday Venezuelans lamented the loss of their favourite soap operas. Advocates of media freedom took a more serious view of the case, accusing Chávez’s administration of blatant censorship. Venezuela, it should be added, has been on the International Press Institute’s Watch List since 2000.

Chávez’s political style has always been confrontational. The press represents an obvious target. The opposition media only serves to stoke the fire, doing little to hide its loathing for the country’s elected premier. 

However, suggesting the media are involved in a militaristic attempt to unsettle his administration (Chávez blamed them for “promoting war” and “instigating the military to make pronouncements, saying that the President must die”) has a ring of paranoia to it.
So far, Chávez has only threatened the initiation of “investigations” into alleged coup-mongering by the press. But don’t be surprised if more radio stations and TV channels are ordered off the air in the near future.