Venezuela: Critical situation for free speech post-election
|Publication Date||24 April 2013|
|Cite as||Article 19, Venezuela: Critical situation for free speech post-election, 24 April 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/519dd6911c.html [accessed 29 May 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
ARTICLE 19 urges the newly elected Venezuelan government to end its crackdown on protests undertaken by opposition groups following the 14 April presidential elections in which former Vice President, Nicolás Maduro was declared winner by a narrow margin.
Government actions have seriously threatened freedom of expression in Venezuela, including:
Three journalists jailed whilst covering the protests;
At least150 protesters imprisoned;
Political opposition rallies banned in Caracas;
Opposition MPs not allowed to speak in the National Assembly.
"We condemn the recent attacks against the opposition groups that have challenged the election results. We call for the newly elected Venezuelan authorities to impartially investigate all clashes between pro and anti government groups and bring the perpetrators of violence to justice, whichever side they advocate on," said Paula Martins, ARTICLE 19's Director for South America.
Nicolás Maduro, who was declared the winner of the presidential election by the National Electoral Council, urged the Venezuelan media to choose whether they will be "with the nation, peace, the people, or if they will be again with fascism [...] and violence."
"It is worrying that Maduro is blaming the media itself for the post-election violence and pushing the media to support the president. President Maduro's statements encourage self-censorship amongst the media, intimidate journalists and human rights defenders, and reduce democratic space in the country," added Martins.
After opposition leader Henrique Capriles challenged the election results, protests spread in the country and 150 people were reportedly arrested under "terrorism" charges in the cities of Valencia and Barquisimeto between 16 and 17 April. Also, three journalists from Zulia region were jailed when covering opposition protests, and released the day after.
Local human rights NGO, PROVEA has also been targeted for documenting fabricated allegations accusing opposition groups of burning down hospitals when protesting. Minister of Communications, Ernesto Villegas accused PROVEA of acting as a 'fascist' organisation via his Twitter account and the state-run media.
"This is a very bad precedent for freedom of expression in Venezuela, particularly after this presidential election following the death of former President Hugo Chávez. We urge Maduro's administration to fully protect the right to free speech and allow dissenters to voice their political opinions as required under articles 57 and 58 of the Venezuelan Constitution."