The Venezuelan Supreme Court has ordered the seizure of $5.7 million in assets of a privately-funded news channel known for taking a highly critical stance against President Hugo Chavez.
The channel Globovision had previously been fined $2.1 million by government regulators in 2011 over its coverage of the El Rodeo prisoner uprising outside Caracas last June.
Globovision has said it cannot afford to pay the original fine and made three separate appeals challenging it, two of which have been rejected by the Venezuelan courts.
The channel accused the Venezuelan government of trying to intimidate it in the runup to the presidential elections in October, when Chavez will seek a third six-year term after being in office since 1999.
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, Globovision's vice president Maria Fernanda Flores told reporters.
Globovision is Venezuela's sole remaining anti-Chavez television station on the air, after another channel, RCTV, aligned with the main opposition party was forced off cable and satellite networks in 2010, having been removed from public broadcast in 2007.
In levying the initial fine against Globovision, Venezuela's National Telecommunications Commission accused it of apologizing for crime, altering the public order, and fomenting hatred and intolerance for political reasons, the Associated Press reported.
The news channel had reported on a prison riot that erupted following a military raid searching for weapons at a separate prison complex nearby. The incident resulted in a nearly month-long standoff between prisoners and National Guard troops that left at least 22 people dead.
Some of the Commission's main criticisms of Globovision's coverage were the repeated airing of highly emotional interviews with the prisoners' relatives, at times with the sound of gunfire in the background.
The Commission has said that Globovision's assets will be unfrozen once the initial fine is paid. Failure to do so will likely result in the repossession of the station's equipment and the suspension of its broadcasting license.
Globovision is very clear about its responsibility to move forward, to stay open and to remain the primary space for criticism and free, independent news, the channel said in a written statement.