The Venezuelan government shut off CNN in Spanish in apparent response to a story about government employees selling fraudulent passports. The story had drawn an angry response from government officials.
According to an Associated Press report, the government’s National Telecommunications Commission issued a statement calling the move an “administrative sanction” made in response to CNN stories that were “direct aggressions” against the government — though it did not call out the passport story specifically.
“At CNN en Español we believe in the vital role that freedom of press plays in a healthy democracy,” A CNN spokesperson said in a statement. “Today the government of Venezuela pulled our television signal, denying Venezuelans news and information from our television network, which they have relied upon for 20 years. CNN en Español will continue to fulfill its responsibility to the Venezuelan public by offering our live signal on YouTube free of charge and news links on CNNEspanol.com, so they may have access to information not available to them in any other way. This happens days after we aired our investigation ‘Passports in the Shadows’ which revealed that Venezuelan authorities may have issued passports and visas to people with ties to terrorism. CNN stands by our network’s reporting and our commitment to truth and transparency.”
CNN reported Feb. 6 on allegations that officials at the country’s embassy in Iraq had been selling Venezuelan passports to citizens of Middle Eastern countries, including known terrorists. The report alleged that Vice President Tareck El Aissami was part of the passport-sale scheme.
Earlier this week, the United States sanctioned El Aissami, identifying him as playing a key role in international drug trafficking.