President Hugo Chávez broadened his assault on Venezuela's independent press last night, accusing CNN and another television channel of trying to unsettle the Government while police dispersed thousands of protesters with blockades, water cannons and tear gas.
On a day of already heightened tension surrounding the closure of Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), Venezuela's most prominent independent broadcaster, officials turned their sights on Globovisión, a local television network and CNN, the US cable news network, accusing them of plotting against the Government.
The Information Minister, William Lara, showed a press conference what he said was CNN footage of Mr Chávez juxtaposed with images of Osama bin Laden, saying: “CNN broadcast a lie which linked President Chavez to violence and murder". He also accused CNN of dishonesty for using footage of a Mexican demonstration in a story about the current Venezuelan disturbances.
As for Globovisión, Mr Lara said that the Government was suing the channel for "the offence of incitement to assassination" because it aired footage of the attempted murder, in 1981, of the late Pope John Paul II in Rome. Mr Lara said the images, which were played with a slogan "Have faith, this doesn’t end here"Alberto Federico Ravell, a director of Globovisión, called the allegations "ridiculous" while Tony Maddox, a vice president of CNN International, said that the network had already given a detailed apology for the mistake in using footage from Mexico and "denies categorically being engaged in a campaign to discredit or attack Venezuela".
As for the image of Mr Chávez next to bin Laden, Mr Maddox said that “unrelated news stories can be juxtaposed in a given segment of television news in the same way that a newspaper page or a website can have news items with no relation to each other placed side by side".
The accusations came on a day in which opposition activists, journalists and students from every university in...