Mon, Oct 15, 2007 - Page 7 News List

News media group accuses Chavez of blocking conference

AP , MIAMI

A group representing news media in the Americas accused the Venezuelan government of pressuring hotels not to host the organization's annual meeting next year -- an allegation Venezuelan officials quickly dismissed.

The Inter American Press Association complained on Saturday that a number of hotels in several Venezuelan cities rejected reservations for the group's semi-annual assembly next March, saying they had no vacancies for that time of year.

But leaders of the group, which reviews the state of the media in the Western Hemisphere and promotes free expression, also said they will go ahead with plans to meet in Venezuela in March.

"It worries us that we perceive official pressure," said Gonzalo Marroquin, president of the organization's press freedom committee. "This has not happened in any other country and demonstrates pressures and corporate self-censorship."

Venezuelan Information Minister Willian Lara called the allegation a "new aggression" by the press group and denied his government had pressured any hotel chain to reject it.

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