(Mérida, 06/15/2020) – On June 15, 2017, the signal of ULA TV, a television station of the University of Los Andes, the unique of its kind in Venezuela, stopped being on air as a consequence of a decision of the National Commission of Telecommunications (Conatel, by its acronym in Spanish). Since then, an administrative sanctioning procedure was initiated against the channel based on the alleged violation of the Organic Law on Telecommunications, which has been paralyzed, and the equipment that was confiscated has not been returned to it.
The day before the closure of the TV station, Conatel workers supervised for several hours the administrative documentation of the channel, whose renewal of the concession to broadcast on open signal had been requested repeatedly by the ULA TV directive to Conatel, without receiving a response. Consequently, this Commission decided to initiate an administrative sanctioning procedure against the television channel for non-compliance with numeral 1 of Article 165 and numeral 2 of Article 172 of the Organic Law on Telecommunications that has implied the use and exploitation of UHF 29 of the open signal, which alleged that the television station did not have the required concession.
«It should be noted that since 2013, on several occasions, the University of Los Andes made the corresponding request for authorization and concession with Conatel, but this organization never responded formally or in a timely manner to these requests. For this reason, for four consecutive years and without interruption, the university television station had operated at the expense of the official good faith to consider the legality of the use of channel 29UHF through which it transmitted its daily cultural and educational programming,» This was stated in a statement issued on the day of closure, which was supported by this Observatory and other human rights organizations.
Accusations of Former Governor
The closure of ULA TV was preceded by accusations broadcast by Alexis Ramirez, then governor of the Merida state, which information broadcast by the university television station made uncomfortable to him. During the social protests that took place throughout the country in 2017, which were also strongly repressed in Merida, Ramirez said that ULA TV to lend itself to “criminal acts”. «There are all the recordings on ULA TV that have been lent for these criminal acts,» said the regional president on Twitter, who also blamed the university media for the violence.
The Observatory of Human Rights of the University of Los Andes (ODH-ULA) rejects the decision of Conatel against ULA TV and denounces it as an act of censorship that violates the principles of freedom of expression, established in international and national legal instruments, as well as Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
The closure of ULA TV, a television station founded in 1999, is added to the long list of acts of censorship, closures, intimidation, persecution and arbitrary arrests committed against Venezuelan journalists and media during the governments of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.