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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 May 2007, 01:38 GMT 02:38 UK
Venezuelans protest over TV issue
By James Ingham
BBC News, Caracas

Protesters in Caracas, 26 May 2007
Crowds passionately called for freedom of speech
Tens of thousands of people are protesting in Venezuela this weekend as a TV station critical of the government is taken off the air.

President Hugo Chavez has refused to renew a licence for Radio Caracas TV, saying the station actively tries to undermine his government.

Opponents say the president is limiting freedom of expression.

But the decision is hugely popular amongst Mr Chavez's supporters, who are also marching to show their support.

Thousands of Venezuelans have walked through the city's streets carrying banners, waving flags and chanting.

Rule by decree

This weekend RCTV will stop broadcasting on its public frequency.

Protester in Caracas, 26 May 2007
Some said they did not like RCTV but defended its right to broadcast
In its place a new state-sponsored channel will launch with programmes the president says will better reflect society and further his socialist revolution.

Mr Chavez has long disliked the main private media companies here.

He says they were involved in a coup that nearly toppled him five years ago and that since then they have actively tried to bring down his government.

RCTV is often critical of his policies, but its owner Marcel Granier says his journalists have the right to question what they like.

Mr Chavez has stepped up his radical revolution since being re-elected in December 2006.

With the power to rule by decree he has nationalised key sectors of the economy and is drawing his supporters together under one unified party.

All this is hugely popular amongst Mr Chavez's supporters, who are also marching to show their support for the decision not to renew RCTV's licence.

But this is a very divided country.

The president's critics say he has become far too powerful.

For them the removal of this voice of dissent is just one more step along a path to dictatorship.

Venzuela's president answers his critics

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