Chavez defends web regulation plan
Caracas - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez defended plans for a law that would impose broadcast-type regulations on the internet, saying Sunday that his government should protect citizens against online crimes.
Chavez's congressional allies are considering extending the "Social Responsibility Law" for broadcast media to the internet, banning messages that "disrespect public authorities", "incite or promote hatred" or crimes, or are aimed at creating "anxiety" in the population.
Government opponents and press freedom groups have been critical of the plan, saying it is one of several measures being considered that could restrict freedoms in Venezuela.
"We aren't eliminating the internet here ... nor censoring the internet," Chavez said during his weekly television and radio programme, "Hello, President". "What we're doing is protecting ourselves against crimes, cybercrimes, through a law."
As examples, Chavez mentioned messages promoting drug use, prostitution and other crimes, and said his government has an obligation to take a stand. Questions remain about how the measures would be enforced.
Chavez also rebuffed criticism over the National Assembly's vote on Friday granting him special powers to enact laws by decree in a range of areas for the next year and a half.
Critics called it a power grab, noting that Chavez will be able to largely bypass the incoming National Assembly that takes office next month with a larger opposition contingent.
"They're calling me a dictator?" Chavez said, dismissing the criticism. "They're the dictators, those who are crazy for installing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie once again in Venezuela - but we'll never again allow them."