Media News

Chavez minister vows more Venezuela radio closings

* Radio stations to be pulled after 34 closed in August

* Critics say hits free speech, government says democratic

* Anti-Chavez TV network in the spotlight over coup rumor

CARACAS, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Venezuela will pull the plug on 29 more radio stations, a top official in President Hugo Chavez’s government said on Saturday, just weeks after dozens of other outlets were closed in a media clampdown.

Infrastructure Minister Diosdado Cabello closed 34 radio stations in July, saying the government was “democratizing” media ownership. Critics say the move limits freedom of expression and has taken critical voices off the airwaves.

The powerful Chavez ally has threatened to close over 100 stations in total, part of a long-term campaign against private media that the government says are biased against Chavez’s government.

“Another 29 will be gone before long,” he told thousands of Chavez supporters at a political rally, without giving details which stations would be closed or when.

Cabello also said he was launching a new legal case against Globovision, the country’s most prominent anti-government television network, accusing it of inciting a coup against Chavez.

Text messages circulated Last week in Venezuela saying a coup against Chavez was imminent. Other messages circulated among Chavez supporters calling for them to be on the alert.

The government quashed the rumors quickly and said all military units were acting normally.

“They (Globovision) aired a tape supposedly with telephone messages calling for a coup d’etat,” said Cabello, a member of Chavez’s inner circle who took part in the president’s first bid for office -- a violent and abortive coup in 1992.

Chavez was himself ousted for 48 hours 10 years later in a short-lived army rebellion after he won office democratically. That putsch had the support of some of the country’s television companies.

In 2007, Chavez took revenge, refusing to renew the concession of Venezuela’s oldest and most widely watched private station, RCTV, which is now visible only on cable.

Chavez has long threatened to close down Globovision on similar grounds and the government has slapped it with big fines and legal cases this year. (Reporting by Eyanir Chinea; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Peter Cooney)