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Venezuela fines TV station for prison coverage
Venezuela fines only remaining anti-Chavez TV channel $2M for coverage of prison riot
By The Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) ' Venezuelan regulators fined a TV channel more than $2 million on Tuesday for its coverage of a deadly prison riot that became a political headache for President Hugo Chavez.

The hefty fine against Globovision sharply raises the stakes in an intermittent conflict between the government and the country's only remaining channel that takes a staunch anti-Chavez stance.

Globovision was fined for its coverage of a prison riot that erupted in a prison in June after troops raided an adjacent prison looking for weapons. The raid set off gunfights that left three dead, and the standoff finally ended with negotiations after 27 days. Authorities said four inmates who escaped also were slain by soldiers.

Globovision's vice president, Maria Fernanda Flores, called the fine "unpayable." The channel has defended its coverage of the riot.

"There is no way to pay this fortune they are fining us," Flores said, adding that the channel will do everything possible to stay open.

Telecommunications regulator Pedro Maldonado said the channel was being disciplined for its "editorial conduct," which included making an "apology for crime" and fomenting "the anxiety of the citizenry" as well as "hatred and intolerance for political reasons."

Maldonado, who heads the National Telecommunications Commission, said the violations of the country's broadcast regulations resulted in part from repeatedly airing emotional interviews with prisoners' relatives. He said such interviews were played about 300 times and that audio was added to some of the tracks, including the sounds of gunfire.

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