May 28, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Press freedom dies in Venezuela

Hugo Chavez followed through with his threat to effectively shut down Radio Caracas TV, one of the few remaining opposition voices in the country, as the request by that station to renew its license was denied. The signal went dead at midnight Saturday/Sunday. It was encouraging that the cause of freedom did not go down without a fight, as thousands of people rallied outside the RCTV studios to protest the government's decision. The final moments on air were very poignant, as reported by the BBC:

Employees of Venezuela's most watched channel embraced and chanted "freedom", before bowing their heads in tearful prayer, during the final minutes on air.

"Long live Venezuela. We will return soon," a presenter said, before the national anthem was sung and the screen went blank.

Those who can afford cable TV will still be able to watch RCTV, but with most of its viewership gone, advertising revenues will certainly dwindle, and the station will have to cut back its operations drastically. Mr. Chavez, who is quite sure that he knows better than anyone else what is best for Venezuela, explained his decision in the tone of a true autocrat:

That television station became a threat to the country so I decided not to renew the license because it's my responsibility.

Threats to freedom exist all around the world, and even here at home, there are those on both sides of the political spectrum who seek government power for the express purpose of shutting down alternative points of view. If you think what happened in Venezuela can't happen here, think again.