Anti-Chavez Venezuelan TV Globovision pays $2.1m fine

People demonstrate in support of Globovision outside the court in Caracas Globovision employees and supporters demonstrate outside the Supreme Court in Caracas

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A Venezuelan news channel highly critical of President Hugo Chavez has paid a $2.1m (£1.3m) fine for its coverage of a prison riot a year ago.

The move comes a day after the Supreme Court placed a seizure order on assets belonging to Globovision worth nearly three times the original fine.

"The fine is unfair and disproportionate," said Globovision vice-president Carlos Zuloaga.

He said the court should lift the order now that the fine has been paid.

Globovision accused the government of trying to intimidate it ahead of the start of campaigning for October's presidential election.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles said the government was attempting to silence independent media.

The fine was imposed by media regulator Conatel in October 2011.

Conatel said Globovision's coverage of disturbances at the El Rodeo prison outside the capital, Caracas, in June 2011 "promoted hatred and intolerance for political reasons."

More than 20 people were killed in the prison mutiny.

Globovision went to court to fight the fine.

But the Supreme Court announced on Thursday that a seizure order had been placed on assets worth $5.7m (£3.6m) belonging to the news channel.

Globovision vice-president Carlos Zuloaga Globovision's vice-president Carlos Zuloaga says he expects the seizure order to be lifted by Monday

"This decision doesn't surprise us because we are about to begin an election campaign in which the government tends to take judicial actions to intimidate the independent private media," said channel vice-president Maria Fernanda Flores.

Mr Zuloaga and other executives of the channel went to the Supreme Court to pay the original fine, accompanied by employees and supporters.

Globovision lawyer Ricardo Antela said the company feared bigger sanctions and the loss of its broadcasting licence.

Coup attempt

The election campaign begins on Sunday, with President Hugo Chavez seeking a third term in the 7 October vote.

Mr Chavez has accused Globovision of supporting a 2002 coup attempt, and of plotting to assassinate him.

Venezuela's opposition has frequently accused Mr Chavez's government of trying to gag the media.

Several other private radio and television stations have been forced off air for failing to comply with regulations requiring them to broadcast government information.

The government has frequently accused private media companies of using their power to try to undermine the democratic authorities.

State-owned media has expanded dramatically since Mr Chavez took office in 1999.

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