Free RCTV is HRF’s campaign to raise awareness about the grave situation of freedom of expression in Venezuela. Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) was effectively shut down by the Venezuelan government in January 2010 for failing to air a speech by former president Hugo Chávez.

Since its founding in 1953, Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) has often been at loggerheads with government agencies and the Venezuelan presidency. RCTV’s independence is illustrated by the number of Venezuelan presidents who have clashed with the network and its executives over criticism of government inefficiency and corruption. RCTV’s criticism of President Hugo Chávez’s government is thus consistent with the network’s history.

Within months of taking office, Venezuela’s president took action against the independent media that criticized his administration or opposed his re-election. RCTV was no exception. On June 14, 2006, the Venezuelan president declared that he was not going to renew the licenses of certain television stations, particularly those controlled by the “oligarchy” that opposes the government. On January 10, 2007, the president declared that RCTV’s days were numbered and nothing would stop him from not renewing RCTV’s operating license.

UPDATES: [May 27, 2007] RCTV is shut down at midnight, after nearly a year of threats and attacks on the station by the Venezuelan government.

[July 25, 2007] Just three weeks after having been taken off public airwaves, RCTV starts broadcasting through cable and satellite service providers as RCTV International (RCTV-I). Only a few days later, , the Telecommunications National Commission (CONATEL) calls on RCTV-I to register as a “service of audiovisual national production.” The purpose of having RCTV-I registered as such is to require it to broadcast president Chavez’s speeches and “nation-wide broadcasts”, as well as revising its entire programming to fit the governments’ content and advertising restrictions.

[January 23, 2010] RCTV-I fails to air a speech by President Chávez and that same day the government publicly calls on the cable and satellite operating companies to take RCTV-I, along with other five channels, off the air. The order is enforced that same day at midnight.