[FACT SHEET] Recent media events in Venezuela

In light of recent disinformation from the international media regarding the closure of a number of radio stations in Venezuela and a “Draft Law against Media Crimes" presented to the Parliament, here Hands Off Venezuela reproduce the facts as presented by the Bolivarian government and not mentioned in the mainstream media.

In light of recent disinformation from the international media regarding the closure of a number of radio stations in Venezuela and a “Draft Law against Media Crimes" presented to the Parliament, here Hands Off Venezuela reproduce the facts as presented by the Bolivarian government and not mentioned in the mainstream media.

Fact Sheet:


There has been much uproar in the international media in recent days as various radio stations in Venezuela have been closed and a “Draft Special Law against Media Crimes” has been presented to the Venezuelan Parliament by the Public Prosecutor last week. As usual, much disinformation has guided the debate around these topics. This fact-sheet should clarify the issues and rectify the imbalanced reporting of the mainstream media.


The National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) ascribed to the Ministry of Popular Power for Infrastructure and Housing (Mopvi) announced the closure of 34 Venezuelan media stations as they operated outside the margins of the Telecommunications Law as ratified in the year 2000.1

The mainstream international media tries to portray the closure of these stations as if it were the result of a deliberate decision taken by President Chávez, when in fact it is the consequence of the rightful application of the law.

Here are the Facts:

  1. Conatel and Mopvi are currently in a process of data revision, updating information on Venezuelan television and radio broadcast concessions. This process is being carried out under utmost transparency and the public has continuously been informed about all decisions taken by the responsible state institutions.
  2. The data-revision process brought to light that the 34 media-stations in question were clearly not complying with the law because of one or more of the following failures:
    • the expiration of the broadcastconcession and/or the lack of renewal of the concession within the time period determined by the law;
    • the passing-away or the renunciation of a concession holder and;
    • the lack of the lawful transfer to a new concession holder.
  3. In that context Diosdado Cabello, Minister for Infrastructure and Housing, faced those opposing the measure and said "I challenge those who operate the Circuito Nacional Belfort to provide a document showing that CONATEL has authorized them to operate the 102.3 frequency. They are saying that the station is theirs and it's not true…They have started to say that we are revoking concessions and that is not true. The state is simply recovering the concessions that were being used illegally for more than 30 years. It is an act of justice that has to do with giving power to people". 2
  4. Nonetheless those affected by the measure can continue broadcasting their programs through the internet as the regulation only applies to the use of the state-owned airwaves.
  5. According to Venezuelan law, the 34 stations had to stop broadcasting immediately. Cabello stated in a recent press conference that authorities went to inform the 34 stations about the incompliance with the law, but they closed the doors in front of them. Cabello said “there is no way to close the doors to the truth”.
  6. In other cases, administrative processes were opened. Decisions are still pending on 206 more stations.
  7. The 34 mediastations (32 radio and 2 television)3 have not presented any evidence whatsoever that would put into question the decisions made by the authorities. They have the right to take their case to the Supreme Court.
  8. Furthermore it is worth noting that despite these 34 stations being off the public airwaves and 206 being under revision, there are another 872 TV and radio stations operating in Venezuela. There are currently 794 FM radio stations, 210 AM radio stations and 108 TV stations using the public airwaves in Venezuela. In total 65 % are commercial, 10 % are public, and 25% are community outlets. In fact, CONATEL has increased the use of the airwaves by private stations by granting, for instance, 181 concessions to private FM radio stations owned by the private sector during the administration of President Hugo Chavez. 4
  9. Another aspect that has not been mentioned in the international media is the fact that people in Venezuela have rallied in favor of the measure. On July 23, the National Association of Free and Alternative Community Media (AMCLA), rallied in Caracas and called for radio and television airwaves to be given to the people. On Sunday several hundred people convened in front of CONATEL in support of the government measure. In that context one person mentioned "I'm totally in agreement with the measure that minister Diosdado Cabello has taken of placing the airwaves in the hands of the Venezuelan people." 5


The closure of the 34 broadcast stations is completely independent from the discussions of a “Draft Special Law Against Media Crimes” that has been presented to the Parliament by the Public Prosecutor last week. The President of the Media Commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Congressman Manuel Villalba, has been emphatic in pointing out that there is no consensus in the Parliament around the possible contents of the proposed Special Law against Media Crimes “there are different proposals that will be debated”. In fact, the Media Commission is actively promoting a national debate about this matter.6

Even before discussing the draft law in the Parliament, it has already received harsh criticism from the international press. Critics have mainly focused on the following two aspects of the proposed law: First, that journalists could face prison-punishment for “publishing material deemed to harm state stability” (BBC World) and second, that the law would strongly limit the freedom of expression.

Here are the facts:

  1. The law is in no way limiting the freedom of expression but rather ensures the subsequent imposition of liability, according to Article 13 of the Inter- American Convention of Human Rights.7 In fact, the proposed law sustains itself in both, the Venezuelan Constitution and the Convention of Human Rights. For example, Article 13 of the mentioned convention also says that “any propaganda for war and any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitute incitements to lawless violence or to any other similar action against any person or group of persons on any grounds including those of race, colour, religion, language, or national origin shall be considered as offences punishable by law.”8 Article 58 of the Venezuelan Constitution says that “Everyone has the right to timely, truthful and impartial information, without censorship, in accordance with the principles of this Constitution, as well as the right to reply and corrections when they are directly affected by inaccurate or offensive information.”9
  2. The law will establish what is to be considered a crime. 10 According to Article 3 of this draft, among the actions or omissions that might be considered a crime are the following:
    • Advocate against social peace, security and the independence of the nation;
    • Advocate against the public order, stability of state institutions, mental health and public morale.
  3. The Public Prosecution office explains clearly that while other rights of the Constitution are protected by the Venezuelan Criminal Law, the right to receive truthful and impartial information does not enjoy this kind of protection, which means that perpetrators who violate this right go unpunished. For example, Article 60 of the Constitution foresees that everyone has the right of protection of one’s honour and reputation. This right is protected by the Criminal Law, which establishes sanctions for those who commit the crime.11 The proposed Special Law Against Media Crimes intends to protect the right to receive truthful and impartial information, by establishing clear rules of punishment for those who violate these rights.
  4. Already back in 1966 the renowned Venezuelan writer and intellectual Arturo Uslar Pietri stated that "Today we are confronting the danger that these [media] companies convert themselves into grand opinion factories; something that could be very dangerous for a country, as the possibility to determine public opinion might end up in the hands of three or four rich persons who could say: Let’s fabricate this type of person, let’s destroy this other one, let’s make people hate this idea and like the other one. This is an immense danger for democracy and we should not contemplate it with romantic ideas. … We have to set a limit to the power of these plutocratic fabricants and opinion-manufacturers which could convert into the country’s dictators through their economic power.” 12 What Venezuela is doing today has been a concern of intellectuals already decades back, and given the words of Arturo Pietri, Venezuela through the proposed law is in fact enhancing democracy and certainly not limiting it.
  5. Interestingly, just those who most criticize the proposed law today are those who years ago would approve a constitution that foresees the clear punishment of ‘criminal expressions’. Eleazar Diaz Rangel, journalist and editor of the popular Venezuelan newspaper, Últimas Noticias, pointed out that “the Constitution of 1961 that they approved, guaranteed that freedom in Article 66, but clearly stated that those expressions which constitute a crime are subject to punishment according to the law”. It furthermore said that “anonymity is not permitted, just like the promotion of war, the offence of the public morale or propaganda that would provoke the disobedience of the laws.”13
  6. Finally, we should not forget the destructive role the media has played in the 2002 coup d’etat against the democratic government of Hugo Chávez. In fact, the coup was orchestrated and directed by the private media. The support that Globovision, RCTV and other private media outlets gave to the coup has been reported by various independent human rights organizations, such as PROVEA.14 Venezuela is only one example of where media-terror can lead to. In Rwanda the media was a main actor in the civil war in the 1990s and Kofi Annan made clear that “the media in Rwanda was used to disseminate hatred, to dehumanize the people, and what is even worse, to guide the genocide towards certain victims… Three journalists and media owners were found culpable of genocide, instigation to genocide, of conspiracy and of committing crimes against humanity.” He insisted, “We have to find a way to respond to these abuses of power”.15

“If someone thinks that this enormous power that justifies wars, violence, coup d’etats, and chaos around the world should not be regulated…this means we will always live vulnerably to any kind of aggression”16…asserts the Public Prosecutor.

London, August 6th, 2009

Open the original document as PDF here.

1 Telecommunication Law, June 2000. http://www.tsj.gov.ve/legislacion/LT_ley.htm

2 http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4683

3 Ibid.

4 Fact-Sheet, Venezuelan Embassy Washington D.C. http://www.embavenez-us.org/factsheet/Recent-Media- Events_FS-US.pdf

5 http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/4683

6 Fact-Sheet, Venezuelan Embassy Washington D.C. http://www.embavenez-us.org/factsheet/Recent-Media- Events_FS-US.pdf

7 American Convention of Human Rights. http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/treaties/b-32.html

8 American Convention of Human Rights. http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/treaties/b-32.html

9 Constitution, 1999 (Spanish) http://www.tsj.gov.ve/legislacion/constitucion1999.htm

10 “Draft Law Against Media Crimes” (in Spanish), retrieved August 3, 2009, http://www.scribd.com/doc/17868174/ProyectoLeyEsp ecialDelitosMediaticos

11 http://www.aporrea.org/medios/a82039.html

12 http://www.diarioalternativademocratica.com/noticias/4 550-diaz-rangel-no-es-primera-vez-que-se-intentalimitar- libertad-de-prensa.html

13 “Diaz Rangel: No es la primera vez que se reclama limitar la libertad de prensa”, RNV, August 2, 2009. http://www.rnv.gov.ve/noticias/index.php?act=ST&f=2 &t=104128

14 Annual Report 2001-2002. (Spanish) http://www.derechos.org.ve/publicaciones/infanual/200 1_02/derecho_lib_exp_inf.htm#01

15 http://www.aporrea.org/ddhh/a35265.html

16 http://www.rnv.gov.ve/noticias/index.php?act=ST&f= 2&t=104034