May 18, 2007
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's Supreme Court has dismissed a challenge by an opposition-aligned television station seeking to remain on the air despite the government's decision not to renew its license.
In a decision announced late Thursday, the court declared inadmissible the challenge by Radio Caracas Television and its top executive Marcel Granier. The ruling is a setback for RCTV, a channel critical of President Hugo Chavez that is due to go off the air at midnight May 27 when the government says its license expires.
It was the first of a series of petitions made by Venezuela's oldest private network to remain on the air. The station broadcasts a mix of news, talk shows, sports and soap operas.
The channel's supporters argue Chavez is trying to silence criticism, while the government says it will be replaced by a public-service station and that freedom of expression is being respected.
Supreme Court President Luisa Estella Morales said in a statement that it is up to the National Telecommunications Commission to decide on the renewal and revocation of broadcast licenses. The court left open the possibility that the channel could seek redress through other legal means, and other challenges are pending before the court.
RCTV's Granier said Friday he expected those challenges would succeed.
"I hope that in the coming days there will be some decisions, and I wait with optimism because I believe the democratic vocation, the desire for liberty and the desire to live in dignity are very important in Venezuela," he said.
Granier also said he expected the court to rule shortly on whether Chavez may have overstepped his authority in the decision, saying that only the telecommunications watchdog has the power to end RCTV's license.
Chavez announced in December that the government would not renew the station's license, accusing it of supporting a failed 2002 coup against him.
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro warned that Venezuela's leftist government would not tolerate any outside interference in its decision take the station off the air.
"Be sure that any international organization, country or group of countries that tries ... to interfere in the internal affairs, in the sovereign decisions ... of the Venezuelan government will receive an overwhelming response," Maduro said Friday.
Chavez opponents plan a march in favor of RCTV on Saturday.