October 08, 2008
CARACAS -- A top aide to Venezuela's president criticized Spain's king for rubbing shoulders with owners of Venezuela's privately-owned and often anti-government media -- even as he insisted that Venezuelan officials support free speech.
''Be careful who you pose with, King Juan Carlos,'' Information Minister Andres Izarra said, referring to Venezuelan private press photos that showed the king posing with some of President Hugo Chávez's most outspoken critics.
Izarra dismissed concerns raised this week at a meeting of the Inter American Press Association, where Venezuelan newspaper and television network owners accused Chávez of harassing and intimidating the media.
The Information Ministry decried what it called false charges and ''media terrorism'' against Venezuela at the meeting in Madrid this week.
Some private media -- including Caracas-based newspapers El Nacional and El Universal and opposition-aligned television station Globovision -- not only repress pro-government speech, but are ''at the service of the United States,'' Izarra said, according to Venezuela's state news agency.
But that kind of allegation is just the sort of finger-pointing that the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists implored Chávez to reject.
''We urge you to show greater tolerance toward criticism in the press and to halt unfounded accusations aimed at discrediting the news media,'' the group said in an open letter to Chávez published Monday. ``Unfounded government accusations of media coup-plotting have compounded the problem, fostering a climate of fear.''
A Venezuelan journalist was shot and wounded under uncertain circumstances last month, and Globovision's headquarters were recently tear-gassed, the group said.
Izarra denied that Chávez-backers had any role in those attacks.