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CNN taken off air in Venezuela over passport probe

The Venezuelan government ordered cable providers to take CNN off air, days after the network aired an investigation into the alleged fraudulent issuing of Venezuelan passports and visas.

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez on Wednesday accused CNN of performing what she defined as an “imperialistic media operation” against her country in last week’s broadcast of the yearlong investigation.

Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission told cable companies to pull CNN en Espanol’s signal immediately.

It called the action a preventative measure and did not say when the channel would be back on cable systems.

The commission accused the network of slander and distortion and said the network was acting in violation of the free speech rights protected by the Venezuelan constitution.

The two-part CNN report threatened “the peace and democratic stability of our Venezuelan people since they generate an environment of intolerance,” the government said.

The report “Passports in the Shadows”, uncovered serious irregularities in the issuing of Venezuelan passports and visas, including allegations that passports were given to people with ties to terrorism.

The story, which began airing last week, revealed a confidential intelligence document that links Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami to 173 Venezuelan passports and IDs issued to individuals from the Middle East, including people connected to the terrorist group Hezbollah.

CNN en Espanol released a statement after the government’s action.

“At CNN en Espanol we believe in the vital role that freedom of press plays in a healthy democracy,” the network said through a spokesperson. “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 Espanol will continue to fulfil 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.

“CNN stands by our network’s reporting and our commitment to truth and transparency.”

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