His Excellency Hugo Chávez Frías
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Palacio de Miraflores

Fax: (+ 58212) 806 3221

Vienna, 25 October 2001

Your Excellency,

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, is deeply concerned about the ongoing investigation into the private television news channel, Globovisión.

According to IPI's sources, Globovisión was notified by the National Telecommunications Commission, Conatel, that it was being investigated to determine whether the station had broadcast "false" news. The investigation follows public statements made by Your Excellency, in which you attacked the news station and its director, Alberto Ravell, as "enemies of the Revolution" and threatened to revoke the station's licence after it allegedly provoked a taxi drivers' strike in Caracas. Globovisión had reported that nine drivers were murdered by criminals in a single night although, according to the police, only one driver had been killed. The station issued a correction the same day.

IPI fears that the investigation into Globovisión, which could lead to a fine or the suspension of the station's licence, is part of a political campaign to muzzle the voice of media critical of Your Excellency's government.

Indeed, the IPI Executive Board, at its meeting in Paris, France, on 20 October, unanimously agreed to keep Venezuela on the "IPI Watch List", having determined that relations between Your Excellency's government and the independent media have continued to deteriorate since the country was placed on the list in October 2000.

Your Excellency's aggressive rhetoric has contributed to a climate of intimidation and hostility towards the press in which self-censorship is becoming widespread, while Decision 1013 of the Venezuelan Supreme Court, which established criteria for "timely, truthful and impartial information", has opened the door for the judiciary to punish the media for criticism of the president, the IPI Board said.

The "IPI Watch List" was created by IPI to detect and monitor regressive tendencies in countries that appear to be moving towards restricting press freedom. Other countries currently on the list are Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

IPI is alarmed by this latest attack on press freedom in Venezuela and urges Your Excellency to ensure that Globovisión is allowed to operate without further harassment. We further urge you to refrain from issuing threats aimed at intimidating Venezuela's independent journalists.

We thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Johann P. Fritz


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