CNN journalists are denied credentials to report in Venezuela
President Nicolas Maduro calls the network's coverage "war propaganda"
Tensions are running high amid anti-government protests
Venezuela has revoked or denied press credentials for CNN journalists in the country, following the president’s announcement he would expel CNN if it did not “rectify” its coverage of anti-government protests.
“They want to show the world that there is a civil war in Venezuela,” President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday in a televised speech.
Anti-government protests have become a daily occurrence in the country, and clashes with security forces or pro-government supporters have resulted in at least eight deaths, officials said.
What CNN is not showing, Maduro said, is “the people working, studying, building the homeland.”
“Enough war propaganda. I do not accept war propaganda against Venezuela. If they do not rectify things, get out of Venezuela, CNN, get out,” Maduro said, to applause from his pro-government audience.
“Fuera! Fuera!” people in the crowd shouted – “Out! Out!”
Hours later, government officials notified seven journalists for CNN International and CNN en Español that their press accreditation had been denied or revoked.
CNN teams from outside Venezuela were told to book flights back to their home countries.
Maduro described CNN’s journalists with some of the same adjectives he uses for his political opponents.
“A group of fascists with their aggressions want to take us away from peace,” Maduro said. “They are not going to do that. And we are going to show them.”
When members of the CNN International team were told their credentials were denied, they were asked several times when they would be leaving the country.
While the journalists were asked to leave, CNN International and CNN en Español continue to broadcast in Venezuela.
CNN has repeatedly asked for a meeting with officials.
“CNN has reported both sides of the tense situation in Venezuela, even with very limited access to government officials,” CNN said in a statement, adding that at the time its credentials were revoked, CNN was seeking an interview with the president.
“We hope the government will reconsider its decision. Meanwhile, we will continue reporting on Venezuela in the fair, accurate and balanced manner we are known for.”
A top legislative leader for the ruling party said the government will investigate the allegations against CNN, and will not “tremble in acting against those who make an attempt against the motherland.”
The move to revoke CNN’s press credentials comes after weeks of protests that mark the largest demonstrations Maduro has faced in his 11 months in power following the death of President Hugo Chavez. Government authorities and opposition leaders have blamed each other for deaths resulting from the violence.
Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader in Venezuela, faces arson and conspiracy charges in connection with the unrest. Lopez, who has denied the charges, is being held in a military prison outside Caracas.
Venezuela also expelled three U.S. diplomats this week, accusing them of conspiring to bring down the government – an accusation that the State Department has repeatedly denied.