CARACAS, Aug 1 (Reuters) – More than a dozen of 34 radio stations ordered shut by the Venezuelan government went off the air on Saturday, part of President Hugo Chavez’s drive to extend his socialist revolution to the media.
The association of radio broadcasters said 13 stations had stopped transmitting, following an announcement Friday night by government broadcasting watchdog Conatel that 34 radio outlets would be closed because they failed to comply with regulations.
Critics said the crackdown infringed on freedom of speech and that owners were not given the right to a proper defense.
“They’re closing the space for dissidents in Venezuela,” William Echeverria, head of the National Council of Journalists, told RCTV, a private cable TV station, which did not have its broadcasting license renewed in 2007.
Chavez defended the closures, calling them part of the government’s effort to democratize the airwaves.
“We haven’t closed any radio stations, we’ve applied the law,” Chavez said on state television. “We’ve recovered a bunch of stations that were outside the law, that now belong to the people and not the bourgeoisie.”
Chavez supporters say they are waging a “media war” against private news companies and have denounced in recent days what they say is a renewed offensive by privately owned domestic and international media to discredit Venezuela.
The Road to Serfdom. Venezuela is just a little further along the road than we are. For now.