Chavez tightens grip on media

The Independent this week ran a feature about the Venezuelan “dictator” Hugo Chavez.

At least I assumed he was a dictator until I read that he has been elected and re-elected in polls that international observers, including the European Union, say have been free and fair.

He is a popular president, having pumped billions of dollars into social programmes aimed at the poorest in Venezuela. There is free dental care, free health, access to education and vocational training and social housing.

(Sounds a bit like our own wee statelet in fact. But does Venezuela have grammar schools? That’s the key question…)

So what’s the big deal? Well, it seems that he has tired of criticism in the non-state run media and has closed down dozens of radio stations across the country and announced a law that could see journalists in jail for up to four years if they divulged information against “the stability of the institutions of the state”.

I am sure our own leaders will sympathise with Chavez. Remember when Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness accused the Belfast Telegraph of “demonstrating relentless negativity”?

It is a pain when not every journalist has something positive to say, isn’t it?

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