CARACAS Feb 20 Venezuela's President Nicolas
Maduro threatened on Thursday to expel television network CNN
from the country if it did not "rectify" the way it has covered
deadly political protests.
At least five people have been killed in unrest that the
government blames on opposition-led "fascists" and that its
rivals blame on the security forces.
Local television networks have provided almost no live
coverage of the protests against Maduro, which began last month
over a wide range of complaints including inflation, violent
crime, corruption and shortages of basic products.
As result, many opposition supporters have turned to CNN
Espanol, available to some cable TV subscribers, which in recent
days has been the only television to offer live broadcasts of
opposition press conferences.
"I've asked the (information) minister to tell CNN we have
started the administrative process to remove them from Venezuela
if they don't rectify (their behavior)," Maduro said on state
TV. "Enough! I won't accept war propaganda against Venezuela."
"We do not have an official comment at this time on
President Maduro's most recent comments about CNN," Bridget
Leininger, a CNN spokeswoman, said in an email to Reuters.
The only other way for Venezuelans to see opposition leaders
speaking live is via streaming websites over stuttering
Maduro has already drawn criticism from press freedom groups
including Reporters Without Borders by ordering a Colombia-based
network, NTN24, taken off cable in Venezuela after it showed
live coverage of violence that started last week.
The communication minister said NTN24 had been "focused on
overthrowing the constitutional government and stirring up
hatred and violence among Venezuelans."
Maduro regularly uses state media to promote his image as
the heir of Hugo Chavez's self-styled socialist revolution. He
has used nationally televised speeches called "cadenas" that
override all open access programming.
Twitter and other social media are now important sources for
live updates on the daily melees between rock-throwing
protesters and the security forces.
(Additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Brian
Ellsworth and Ken Wills)