Caracas: Forced off the air by President Hugo Chavez, an opposition-aligned Venezuelan TV channel has begun taking its news shows to popular video-sharing website YouTube.

Since it went off the airwaves last Sunday, Radio Caracas Television has kept taping programmes and is uploading its news show The Observer each day to YouTube, RCTV vice-president Maribel Morales said on Friday. YouTube listed the programme as its most-subscribed feed of the week.

In one segment on Thursday, announcer Isnardo Bravo pledged that "RCTV will continue to keep people informed in defence of free speech".

Chavez refused to renew the channel's licence, accusing it of inciting a failed coup in 2002 and violating various broadcast laws. The decision has been condemned by several foreign governments, press freedom groups and international organisations. On Friday US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Venezuela to return the station to the air and "cease these attacks on the free press".

Meanwhile thousands of Venezuelan university students returned to the streets to protest what they call an abuse of power by Chavez, facing off with riot police in the streets while waving flags, blowing whistles and chanting, "We are students, not coup-plotters!" Jonas Calaforra, 27, said the protesters wanted to send the message that "democracy is not a dictatorship of the majority", and that although Chavez won elections in December, "he has to govern for 100 per cent" of Venezuelans.

Elsewhere in the capital, police kept students from entering a pro-Chavez slum where hundreds of his supporters rallied in a plaza.