Radio stations in Venezuela have begun to fall silent in the wake of government orders to some broadcasters to cease operations. The Circuito Nacional Belfort Network, CNB, station in Caracas was among the first to stop broadcasting Saturday morning. At least four other CNB stations also went off the air.
On Friday, Venezuela's telecommunications agency said it would close 32 radio stations and two television stations for failing to meet legal requirements to stay on the air.
More than 200 other radio stations are expected to close in coming weeks
Media rights organizations have criticized the shutdown orders. The Committee to Protect Journalists said Saturday the Venezuelan government is using the regulation of broadcast licenses as a pretext to silence independent and critical voices.
The group says the action is part of a wider crackdown on private media which is jeopardizing Venezuelan democracy.
New laws in Venezuela have established a set of media crimes punishable with jail time. The tough new media law was proposed under which journalists could be imprisoned for publishing harmful material.
The opposition mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, said the closure of the stations showed the government was scared of freedom of expression.
Opposition politician Juan Carlos Caldera said the government had turned into a mutilator of rights.
But Diosdado Cabello, head of the national regulator and public works minister, said there was no evidence that the closures were against the law, adding that they were part of efforts to make the media more democratic.
When we - the national government, the revolutionary government - took the decision to democratise the radio-electrical spectrum... we were speaking seriously he emphasized.