Miami (December 9, 2010).—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today described as a serious violation of press freedom the partial appropriation of Globovisión television on the orders of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez, saying he was “carrying out his threat to do away with the TV channel.”
IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín declared, “We have before us one of the most shameful developments for freedom of the press in the Americas as we see that the government continues to be determined to carry out its threats to knock down a news media outlet for the sole reason of its doing its duty to investigate and criticize abuses of power and what is happening in the country.”
The Venezuelan government took a 20% control of the Globovisión news network after liquidating the Sindicato Avila, C.A. company – belonging to the Banco Federal bank owned by the businessman Nelson Mezerhane, a shareholder in the TV channel – whose operation had been put under government control on June 14 this year. Resolution number 39,566 on the liquidation of Sindicato Avila, C.A. was published in the Official Gazette on December 3, however it was not until three days later that the official Venezuelan News Agency (AVN) reported on the shares transfer.
Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, commented that “history will clearly show how the government, with absolute impunity, is shutting down television stations and other independent media in order to govern while turning its back on transparency and the people.” He added, “What is most regrettable is that Chávez is carrying out every threat he is making against press freedom, in direct defiance of constitutional principles and international treaties. What is worse is to see the daily deterioration of democracy with the people’s right to unfettered information being curtailed.”
He went on, “There can be no doubt that independently of the legal rough terrain imposed by the government this is a strategy to weaken the television channel and one to take it over or sooner or later shut it down once and for all.”
The IAPA has on several occasions been denouncing the official strategy aimed at seeking to control and undermine the credibility of Globovisión, against which 40 criminal and administrative prosecutions have been brought.
On its Web site Globovisión reported that certainly the 20% now in the hands of the government “does not give the right to appoint members of the company’s Board of Directors nor does it affect the management of the company,” for which what would be needed is 65% of the shareholding. Globovisión also made it clear that it will not be changing its editorial stance.
The other shareholders in the channel are Guillermo Zuloaga, with 45%, and Alberto Federico Ravell, with 10%. Another 20% of the shares are owned by an heir of the late Luis Núñez, who together with Zuloaga, Ravell and Nelson Mezerhane Gosen launched Globovisión in 1994.
Zuloaga, the channel’s president, is facing charges of profiteering and contempt of the President of Venezuela. However, given the lack of legal guarantees in the country he has sought political asylum in the United States. Mezerhane, who is also outside the country, is being prosecuted by the government in connection with his ownership of the Banco Federal bank.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.