- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Two Venezuelan users of the micro-blogging site Twitter are facing prison sentences of nine to 11 years for allegedly posting tweets with intent to harm the South American nation’s economy.

The two Twitterers — 41-year-old Luis Enrique Acosta Oxford (@leaoxford) and 35-year-old Carmen Cecilia Nares Castro (@CARMENNARES) — were arrested last Thursday and appeared before a Venezuelan court for the first time Tuesday.

They face charges under a 2001 banking law provision that forbids “spreading false news” about the country’s financial system. They were released pending trial on condition that they report to judicial authorities every two weeks while refraining from further incendiary tweets.

Reporters Without Borders, a nongovernmental organization that promotes press freedom, condemned the arrests and demanded an immediate withdrawal of the charges.

“The authorities are treating Twitter users like criminals and challenging the view of the Internet as a space where freedom should prevail,” the group said in a statement. “President [Hugo] Chavez nonetheless maintains his right to affirm his presence and his opinions on the Internet, above all on his blog and his Twitter account.”

The Venezuelan leader has posted more than 500 tweets since creating his own Twitter account (@chavezcandanga) in April. He has about 660,000 followers.

In March, he declared his intent to tighten restrictions on the Web. “The Internet cannot be a completely free space where anything is said and anything is done,” he said. “No, each country must impose its own rules.”

 

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