Intimidating the media via the tax office

March 18, 2004

Last night I was ranting about the limited freedom of speech that Venezuelans enjoy and I am sure than more than one reader, even among those that oppose Chávez, was thinking that I was exaggerating. Well, today my point was proven extensively by the fact that the tax office SENIAT showed up at the offices of Channel 2, Radio Caracas Television to present a tax fine for Bs. 2 billion.


The origin of the tax fine is the fact that the station donated to the opposition air time to broadcast its message against the government. How political can you get? The message is clear, the Government will use whichever and whatever means under its control to actually stop the opposition from speaking out, essentially limiting free speech and threatening the media this way. That a tax office can be manipulated to show up to argue that it is illegal to donate air time to the opposition is simply absurd and illegal. It also violates the right of free speech.


 


In fact, one wonders what type of ethics these guys have. The Government TV station VTV, broadcasts all day the message not only of the Government, but also of Chavez MVR party. This is simply a violation of corruption laws which do not allow Government funds to be spent on political acts of any party. Moreover, the Government TV stations, in contrast to the other media, gives absolutely NO space to the opposition, even reaching the point of faking images to “demonstrate” that opposition marches have small attendance. Finally, all TV stations are also forced to broadcast long speeches by Hugo Chávez where all he is doing is promoting himself, his so called revolution and those of is party. How fair is this?


 


While these are dangerous signs, it also shows a certain level of desperation on the part of Chavez and his cronies. Blocking the referendum at all costs, killing people, torturing them and even disappearing some and now attempting to silent the media are in the end simply a sign of weakness. Hopefully they are also acts of desperation.

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