CARACAS Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who is criticized by media freedom groups, called on Saturday for regulation of the Internet and singled out a website that he said falsely reported the murder of one of his ministers.
"The Internet cannot be something open where anything is said and done. Every country has to apply its own rules and norms," Chavez said. He cited German Chancellor Angel Merkel as having expressed a similar sentiment recently.
Chavez is angry with Venezuelan political opinion and gossip website Noticierodigital, which he said had falsely written that Diosdado Cabello, a senior minister and close aide, had been assassinated. The president said the story remained on the site for two days.
"We have to act. We are going to ask the attorney general for help, because this is a crime. I have information that this page periodically publishes stories calling for a coup d'etat. That cannot be permitted."
Social networking web sites like Twitter and Facebook are very popular among Venezuela's opposition movements to organize protests against the government. Chavez has complained that people use such sites to spread unfounded rumors.
Many opponents fear Chavez plans to emulate the government oversight of the Web used by allies Cuba, China and Iran, but the socialist leader has not given any sign that he is planning such a move.
In 2007 Chavez refused to renew the license for television station RCTV, which is now battling to survive as a cable-only operator.
The government has also put pressure on opposition TV network Globovision to soften its editorial line and last year closed dozens of radio stations for administrative breaches.
(Reporting by Eyanir Chinea; writing by Frank Jack Daniel)