Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government ordered the suspension of CNN's Spanish-language service from Venezuela's airwaves on Wednesday, accusing it of distorting the truth in coverage.
Minutes after the government regulator, Conatel, announced the suspension, US-based 'CNN en Espanol' disappeared from Venezuela's major cable providers.
The network had irked the government with various reports, including one alleging passports and visas were being sold illegally at Venezuela's embassy in Iraq, including to terrorists.
"They defame and distort the truth ... inciting aggression against the sovereignty of Venezuela and its institutions," Conatel said in its statement.
Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez lambasted the channel, saying the passport story was an "imperialistic media operation."
CNN said the government was unfairly denying Venezuelans a 20-year news service, but added that its signal would be available for free on YouTube.
"At CNN en Espanol we believe in the vital role that freedom of press plays in a healthy democracy," it added.
Venezuela-US relations at a low
The spat with the network has come at a delicate time in US-Venezuelan ties after Washington this week blacklisted Maduro's Vice President Tareck El Aissami on drug charges in the first bilateral flare-up under US President Donald Trump.
Venezuelan officials have reacted furiously, though the president ruled out escalating the dispute.
"I don't want problems with Trump," Maduro said on TV on Wednesday, adding that CNN had become "an instrument of war."
In various calls with Latin American leaders, Trump has expressed concern over the Maduro government.
Venezuela, a key source of US oil, is immersed in a deep economic crisis, with inflation in triple digits, shortages of basic goods, and many people going hungry.
Maduro, whose popularity has plunged during the crisis, blames the problems on an "economic war" waged by the United States and local opponents with the complicity of foreign media.
Opponents say he has become a dictator, jailing opponents, sidelining the opposition-led congress and delaying local elections. Officials say opponents are seeking a coup.
CNN under fire from left and right
The spat with CNN in Venezuela adds to criticism of the channel in the United States. Trump regularly accuses CNN of broadcasting "fake news."
Most recently, CNN joined other mainstream US media such as The New York Times and Washington Post in reporting on the multiple contacts Trump aides had with the Russian government during the election campaign, including claims by intelligence officers that sanctions imposed by then President Barack Obama had been discussed.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer dismissed the cable news report. “We continue to be disgusted by CNN’s fake news reporting,” Spicer said on the day the Russian contact story broke.
Neither Trump nor Spicer has commented on the irony of finding themselves in agreement with Venezuela about CNN.