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Venezuela protest seeks greater press freedom

May 27, 2017

Protesters descended Saturday on the offices of Venezuela’s state media regulator, the latest in nearly two months of often-violent protests demanding the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro.

Demonstrations that got underway in late March have claimed the lives of 58 people, as opposition leaders seek to ramp up pressure on Venezuela’s leftist president, whose already-low popularity has cratered amid ongoing shortages of food and medicines, among other economic woes.

Saturday’s protest in Caracas was held to mark 10 years since the government shuttered a popular television station seen as having anti-government leanings.

The network, RCTV, was shut down by Maduro’s predecessor, the late populist leader Hugo Chavez, after more than a half-century on the air, for its outspoken criticism of his government.

The move “was an atrocious act against freedom of expression”, Julio Borges, leader of the opposition-led legislature, said at the protest.

At the time, officials said the move to close RCTV aimed to “democratize” the airwaves in Venezuela.

Since its demise, a state television broadcaster, TVES, was founded and has been operating in its stead.

On Friday, riot police greeted throngs of protesters who took their demonstration to the complex of buildings housing the defense ministry in in Caracas.

Demonstrators had hoped to sway the support of the armed forces against Maduro, who has been resisting opposition calls for early elections.

Organizers said more protests are planned for Monday.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.