US and Venezuela in spat over RCTV

Rice says forcing station off air undemocratic but Venezuela accuses US of hypocrisy.

    Rice called on the OAS to report on the state
    of press freedom in Venezuela [EPA]
    Maduro said the US was guilty of human rights violations, and compared Guantanamo Bay and secret prisons elsewhere to something not seen since "the time of Hitler".
    Free speech
    Rice, accusing Chavez of pursuing an increasingly anti-US and leftist line since coming to power in the late 1990s, called on the OAS to prepare a full report on the state of press freedom in Venezuela, which she indicated was under siege.
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    "Freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of conscience are not a thorn in the side of government," Rice said.
    "Disagreeing with your government is not unpatriotic and most certainly should not be a crime in any country, especially a democracy."
    Maduro accused the US of violating human rights, particularly on immigration issues.
    "Venezuela is asking for respect. We demand respect for our sovereignty."
    Rice replied saying democracy meant that people should have the assurance that policies can be criticised by a free and independent press without government interference.
    She then left the room before Maduro could reply with a suggestion that journalists from TVES, Venezuela's new state-funded public channel, be granted interviews with Guantanamo detainees.
    Chavez supporters have taken to the streets to express support for the move against the opposition-aligned RCTV, but protests have surfaced at most of Caracas' public and private universities since the channel was forced off the air on May 27 by Chavez's decision to not renew its licence.

    Students marching to Venezuela's Supreme
    Court to demand freedom of expression [EPA]

    The demonstrations have spread to other universities nationwide.
    In Caracas on Monday, about 10,000 university students marched through the capital chanting "Freedom! Freedom!" and handing white carnations to police officers.
    They marched towards the Supreme Court to present magistrates with a document demanding the government respect freedom of expression.
    Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala and Chile have expressed support for RCTV and on Monday in Panama, newspapers and a consortium of media groups published advertisements saying: "Without freedom of expression, there is no liberty, not in Venezuela or any other part of the world."
    But regional allies of Venezuela, such as Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, have threatened to crack down on media organisations they say are seditious.
    Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman said many foreign ministers had told Al Jazeera that they were concerned Venezuela's leftist government was trying to muzzle the opposition media, but they also recognised that all governments had the legal right to renew or withdraw broadcast licences as they saw fit.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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