Page last updated at 04:42 GMT, Sunday, 30 March 2008 05:42 UK

Chavez 'stifles Venezuelan media'

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. File photo
Mr Chavez denounced "manipulating media campaign"
Media attack Chavez

Private media companies from across the Americas have accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of stifling press freedom in his country.

Delegates at a meeting of the Inter- American Press Association in Caracas said Mr Chavez was using intimidation to curb criticism of his government.

They cited his threats to close down one of Venezuela's TV channels.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government is holding a series of events in Caracas to counter "media terrorism".

Globovision issue

Executives at the Iapa meeting, which represents more than 1,000 publications, accused President Chavez of attacking and intimidating media outlets in Venezuela.

Supporters of President Chavez hold a rally in Caracas
Several hundred people took part in the pro-Chavez rally

They cited Mr Chavez's threats to shut down Globovision - one of two Venezuelan TV channels that remain critical of the government.

"Chavez's government denies media outlets that are not subordinate to his hegemony access to public information", David Natera, publisher of Venezuela's Correo del Caroni newspaper, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

The IAPA gathering also said that freedom of speech was under threat in a number of other countries across the continent.

Pro-Chavez rally

Meanwhile, several hundred supporters of Mr Chavez held a protest rally in Caracas against Iapa.

They described the association's delegates as "fascists" and "liars" and also accused the private media in Venezuela of trying to destabilise Mr Chavez's government.

"This march is a protest to tell the world that here there is freedom of expression. It's against the constant threats and aggression from the media who are constantly saying there is no freedom of speech," Rander Pena, one of the protesters, told the BBC.

The rally was part of a series of events staged by the Venezuelan government to denounce what it has described as "media terrorism".

On Friday, Mr Chavez praised the participants of the anti-Iapa forum.

He also denounced what he called a "manipulating media campaign" against his government.

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