Venezuela seeks to regulate Internet with media bill

Thu Dec 9, 2010 11:43pm EST
 

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela plans to include the Internet in a law that regulates the media, under a proposed bill presented to parliament on Thursday that the opposition claims will result in censorship.

Manuel Villalba, a lawmaker from President Hugo Chavez's Socialist Party, said the law was aimed at protecting citizens.

"Nowhere is the restriction of access to the Internet suggested. There should just exist protection of citizens' moral and ethical honor," said Villalba, who heads the National Assembly's media commission.

The bill proposes applying limits on content in "electronic media" according to the time of day, with adult content reserved for programing after midnight.

Such limitations already are in place for TV and radio programing. It was not clear how they would be applied to the Internet

The bill also proposes allowing the government to restrict access to websites if they are found to be distributing messages or information that incite violence against the president. Chavez frequently accuses the opposition of plotting to kill him.

Chavez has been criticized by media freedoms groups for forcing an opposition TV station off the air and taking away the licenses of dozens of radio stations.

The government says Venezuela's elite uses the media to undermine Chavez and considers its own one-sided reporting of news as a legitimate response in a communications "war."

Opposition politicians have previously warned that Chavez intends to copy web restrictions favored by his ally Cuba, especially on social networks such as Twitter which are hugely popular with critics of the president.

Venezuela has taken a tough stance against people who spread false rumors on social networks but Chavez is an avid Twitter user and has more than 1 million followers to his account @chavezcandanga.

(Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Bill Trott)