By: The Associated Press
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's top prosecutor insisted Thursday that freedom of expression in Venezuela "must be limited," and proposed legislation that would slap additional restrictions on the country's news media.
The new law would punish the owners of radio stations, television channels and newspapers that have attempted to "cause panic" and "disturb social peace," Attorney General Luisa Ortega said.
It also would punish those media owners who "manipulate the news with the purpose of transmitting a false perception of the facts."
"Freedom of expression must be limited," Ortega said.
Ortega urged lawmakers to consider her suggestions as they move forward with a proposed law that would punish as-yet-undefined "media crimes." The National Assembly, which is controlled by allies of President Hugo Chavez, is expected to approve the bill in coming months.
Chavez's administration is slowly tightening its grip over the news media, raising concerns among watchdog and human rights groups, which accuse the government of trying to stifle dissent.
Venezuela's telecommunications commission notified 50 radio stations earlier this week that their broadcast licenses could be revoked because they failed to update their registrations. Commission chief Diosdado Cabello said a final determination on the licenses will be made following investigations. He said authorities might also seize broadcasting equipment.
Nearly 200 other broadcasters that did not meet a June deadline to register also will be investigated, but have not yet been formally notified, Cabello said.
Chavez denies that he intends to silence critics, saying that his government fully respects freedom of expression.