CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuela's telecommunications
regulator asked prosecutors on Tuesday to determine if an
opposition-aligned television network is responsible for a talk
show guest's suggestion that foes might kill President Hugo Chavez.
The probe, which potentially could force the station off the
air, adds to a string of government actions against Globovision and
its owner - moves the owner says seek to intimidate the channel
into curbing its criticism of Chavez.
Roselyn Dager, a representative of the Conatel
telecommunications agency, said the channel's broadcast license
could be revoked if the attorney general's office determines the
news network incited a crime when newspaper editor Rafael Poleo
said Chavez could end up "hanging" like Italian dictator Benito
"If it's shown that Globovision has supported or permitted
criminal activities ... the license could be revoked," Dager told
Representatives of the Attorney General's Office could not be
reached for comment. But prosecutors are obliged under Venezuelan
law to act on Conatel's request.
Prosecutors are investigating Poleo, but they have not yet
determined if his comments on a talk show in November were aimed at
Ana Cristina Nunez, one of the network's legal advisers, said
the channel should not be punished for a guest's statements.
Chavez urged Globovision's executives last week to reflect on
the station's tough criticism of his government or else it "won't
be on the airwaves much longer."
In a statement on Tuesday, the New York-based Committee to
Protect Journalists expressed concern that Chavez's warning was
followed so quickly by the threat of a criminal investigation.
"It sends a chilling message to what remains of Venezuela's
critical media," said Carlos Lauria, the media group's senior
program coordinator for the Americas.
In recent weeks, Venezuela's tax agency has slapped Globovision
with a $2.3 million fine for purported tax filing errors,
prosecutors have charged its president in a probe into alleged
fraud and pro-Chavez lawmakers began investigating allegations
linking the channel to an anti-government conspiracy.
Broadcast regulators also are investigating Globovision for
allegedly inciting "panic and anxiety" by criticizing the
government for failing to quickly inform citizens about a minor
earthquake last month.