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Chavez taking control of Venezuela's media, according to report

An unclassified U.S. intelligence report says Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is "moving forcefully" to stifle media criticism by closing scores of radio stations, tightening controls on one TV station and maneuvering to seize control of another.

"Chávez's government is moving forcefully to silence critics," the Open Source Center wrote in a report dated Aug. 3. Part of the office of the Director of National Intelligence, the nation's intelligence czar, the Center provides analysis based on public information such as newspaper, radio and television reports.

The two-page Venezuela report — labeled "Unclassified/FOUO" or For Official Use Only — listed seven well-known examples of Venezuelan government efforts to crack down on or seize control of media outlets.

Although its conclusions echoed the complaints voiced in recent months by Venezuelan opposition groups as well as freedom of expression activists in and outside the country, its wording seemed unusually direct. Requests for comments left with the Venezuelan embassy in Washington were not answered.

"Silencing his critics would allow Chávez to completely control the media message, but it would also deprive him of his long-standing scapegoat," the report noted. "He may be willing to give this up in order to clamp down on the negative news reporting and commentary, which have been hammering away at the country's economic problems and Chávez's increasing authoritarianism for the past year."

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