Venezuela anti-Chavez cable station taken off air
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan cable providers, responding to government orders, stopped showing a station on Sunday critical of President Hugo Chavez that the left-wing leader pushed off free-access television in 2007.
Cable networks halted RCTV Internacional after the government said the station was not following broadcast regulations that include showing Chavez's speeches.
Venezuela's cable industry organization said in a press release that RCTV along with several other stations "had been temporarily excluded from the programing schedule" because they "had not complied with the regulations in place."
Public Works Minister Diosdado Cabello said on Saturday that cable networks' programing could only include stations that obey the Venezuelan broadcast law, which also includes restrictions on adult content and foul language at certain hours.
Chavez in 2007 denied RCTV a renewal of its broadcast license, accusing the station of participating in a 2002 coup.
During that coup, networks showed nonstop footage of anti-Chavez protests leading up to his brief ouster but turned cameras off when loyalists restored him.
Global press freedom groups and the U.S. government, which have accused Chavez of seeking to limit free speech, condemned the decision to take RCTV off free-access TV.
The station in turn created a cable-based "international" station based in Miami to avoid content restrictions.
But the government determined that station was still subject to broadcast restrictions because most of its content was produced in Venezuela.
"(The measure) is meant to silence the voice of protest of the Venezuelan people in the face of the failure of the government's administration," RCTV said in a statement earlier this week.
Chavez faces growing criticism over shortages of power and water and a sharp currency devaluation this month that could accelerate the country's soaring inflation.
He has boosted pro-government broadcasting in recent years by creating several state-funded television networks including the Telesur channel, meant to be a Latin American leftist counterpart to CNN.
(Reporting by Enrique Andres, Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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