Caracas : Venezuelan opposition leader Manuel Rosales has called for a referendum on the leftist government's controversial decision not to renew the broadcasting license of the private RCTV channel as thousands of students demonstrated decrying what they called an attack on freedom of expression, reported the Spanish news agency EFE.
Rosales during a press conference Wednesday made the proposal for a referendum "so that people can say if they want to see a return to the airwaves by RCTV", which stopped broadcasting at midnight Sunday when its license lapsed.
The former presidential candidate said, "People are going to continue marching for freedom and democracy," and called upon the demonstrators to undertake their protest peacefully.
He said the non-renewal of RCTV's license was an attack on freedom of expression, adding that it shows the intention of leftist President Hugo Chavez to take the country toward "a single system of thought and (political) parties".
He criticized the private media for not openly joining the campaign in defence of the TV station. "They have surrendered to the government," he said, without mentioning any names.
The opposition leaders said that the student protests broke out "spontaneously" after Chavez declared Tuesday that the young people were being manipulated as part of a conspiracy against him and amid plans to destabilize the country.
Representatives of the government and the opposition, as well as other sectors of society, including the Catholic Church, have made repeated calls for peaceful coexistence.