The Venezuelan government kicked CNN off the airwaves on Wednesday after an unflattering report about passport fraud at the country’s embassy in Iraq.
Venezuela’s National Commission of Telecommunications said CNN en Español, the network’s Latin American edition, tried to “threaten the peace and democratic stability of our Venezuelan people.” The government mentioned the passport fraud report during a press conference earlier in day, according to the BBC.
CNN en Español responded by making its broadcasts available for free, on YouTube and its website. It began using the social media tag #CNNEcensurado, which means CNNE censured.
Venezuela’s sanctions follow a Feb. 6 CNNE report that said Venezuelan passports and visas may have been sold to individuals with suspected terrorism ties ― including to groups like Hezbollah ― from the country’s embassy in Iraq. Buyers had links to well-placed officials in the Venezuelan government, according to the report.
A Venezuelan passport has benefits that include visa waivers to some 130 countries. (The United States is not among them.)
The network defended its reporting in a statement Wednesday:
At CNN en Español we believe in the essential role that freedom of the press plays in a healthy democracy. This Wednesday, February 15, the Venezuelan government took our TV signal off the air, denying Venezuelans access to information and news from our television network, which they have trusted for twenty years.
CNN en Español will continue to fulfill its commitment to the public of Venezuela by offering our television signal for free on YouTube and links to our news on CNNEspanol.com, so that it has access to information that is not available in any other way.
CNN defends the journalistic work of our chain and our commitment to truth and transparency.