Venezuelans protest TV channel move

CARACAS: Dozens protested in Venezuela's capital on Thursday wearing red gags over their mouths to condemn government moves against an opposition-aligned television channel.

The protesters gathered outside a government office building chanting "a world without a gag" to oppose regulatory investigations that could force the station Globovision off the air.

President Hugo Chavez urged Globovision's executives earlier this month to reflect on the station's tough criticism of his government or else it "won't be on the airwaves much longer."

The telecommunications regulator has asked prosecutors to determine if Globovision is responsible for a talk show guest's suggestion that foes might kill Chavez.

The probe, which potentially could force the station off the air, adds to a series of recent government actions against Globovision and its owner.

The protest was organized on the Internet by a group called "a world without a gag," calling for protests both in Venezuela and at Venezuelan diplomatic missions in various countries. Small protests were also held in cities including Miami and Santiago, Chile.

"We're here to reject the government's attacks against the media and to demand of President Hugo Chavez that he please respect the media, which are the voice of the people," said Isabel Sanchez, a 60-year-old housewife.

She held a sign bearing the name of another anti-Chavez channel, Radio Caracas Television, which was forced off the airwaves in 2007 when the government refused to renew its broadcast license. It has since moved to cable.