The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today expressed his concern in light of the announcement made by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela that the broadcasting license of Radio Caracas Television would not be renewed.
Insulza said that apart from any legal considerations related to this type of measure – a matter he believes corresponds to the internal laws of each member state – it is necessary to take into account the political repercussions that such a measure could bring about. The closing of a mass communications outlet is a rare step in the history of our hemisphere and has no precedent in the recent decades of democracy, Insulza affirmed.
The Venezuelan government has justified its decision based on serious political accusations against the broadcasting station, ranging from its support of the frustrated military coup of 2002 to a systematic policy against the democratic process. Certainly these are serious accusations, Insulza maintained, but he added that on the one hand, the existence of a large number of media outlets is what allows for the widest diversity of opinions to be expressed; and on the other, if an illegal act has been committed, the appropriate path to take in a democracy is to bring charges against the presumed perpetrators within the justice system.
By contrast, Insulza added, the adoption of an administrative measure to close a news outlet gives the appearance of a form of censorship against freedom of expression and at the same time serves as a warning against other news organizations, leading them to limit their actions at the risk of facing the same fate.
Such a decision, Insulza warned, runs contrary to the political climate generated at the time of the December elections, when the opposition’s recognition of President Chávez’s victory seemed to open the door to a climate of dialogue and understanding among all Venezuelans. In that positive electoral process, the presence of a free and pluralistic press played a fundamental role.
The Secretary General expressed his hope that this decision would be revised and that Radio Caracas Television would be allowed to continue broadcasting normally, in accordance with the will expressed by the government to protect democratic liberties. At the same time, he called on the news media to continue to exercise its role to inform in a truthful, free and objective manner that serves all citizens.