After years of harassment by the authorities, Globovisión, the last remaining independent TV station in Venezuela, will be sold to a business group close to the government. This unfortunate development shows that the threat to freedom of the press—and to all other civil liberties in Venezuela—will not go away with the death of Hugo Chávez.
In recent years Globovisión suffered stiff fines and administrative proceedings that crippled its viability as a private business. The TV station incurred in these fines because of ludicrous reasons, such as reporting an earthquake (which the government claims contributed to creating public panic) or their coverage of Venezuela’s staggering crime wave (which the authorities said “promoted hatred for political reasons that generated anxiety in the population.”) Moreover, its license was due to expire in 2016, and there were good reasons to believe that the government would not renew it, as it ocurred in 2007 with RCT, until Venezuela’s then largest independent TV station.
Globovisión’s owner, Guillermo Zuloaga, who is also a Cato Fellow on Free Speech, is a true hero of freedom of the press in Venezuela. For many years he fought against president Chávez and his government for the survival of his business, even facing arrest and now exile. In 2009 Cato held a policy forum on the intensifying assault on freedom of the press in Venezuela, where the future of Globovisión featured predominantly. Unfortunately, that assault has claimed another victim.