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Venezuelan students walk out of National Assembly amid freedom of expression debate

Venezuelan students walk out of National Assembly amid freedom of expression debate

Students opposed to the president's forcing an opposition-aligned TV station off the air walked out of a National Assembly debate on freedom of expression Thursday to protest what they say is an attempt to "politicize" the issue.
University students who have led more than a week of street protests condemning President Hugo Chavez's decision not to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Television, or RCTV, said they left the legislature because they did want to become part of a political spectacle.
"We didn't come here to play around," said Yon Goicochea, a student leader from the Andres Bello Catholic University who helped organize the protests.
Chavez forced RCTV off the air on May 27, defending the move as a means of democratizing the airwaves by turning over the signal to a state-funded public broadcasting station. Critics argue the president is trying to muzzle his opponents.
Pro-Chavez students, joined by National Assembly President Cilia Flores, railed against those who walked out of Thursday's congressional session, accusing them of staging demonstrations as part of a plan by radical government opponents to oust Chavez.
"Behind them are the same old politicians, the fascists of the far-right, those who have tried to destabilize Venezuela's democracy," Flores said.
During a brief 2002 coup, RCTV and other private channels broadcast opposition calls for protests to overthrow Chavez while giving little coverage to his return to power amid protests by his supporters. RCTV denies wrongdoing.
Chavez accuses the channel of seeking his ouster and violating broadcast laws. He says the student protesters are being manipulated by his foes and by Washington.


Updated : 2021-10-26 07:33 GMT+08:00