Freedom of Expression

Press Release R62/19



March 8, 2019

Washington: The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, Edison Lanza, raised alarm over censorship measures and blockings of platforms, social networks and online media, as well as the serious restrictions of journalistic coverage, by the  authorities in Venezuela.

During the development of the political and social crisis in Venezuela, various media were blocked on platforms such as YouTube and Google, while users' access to Facebook was intermittent. Also, at different times it was not possible to access news portals through the internet.

During the demonstrations and political events of recent weeks, the National Television of Chile and Radio Caracol were blocked in the schedule of the subscription channels by order of Conatel, the body that regulates the media. The blocking of TV channels by subscription remains, including CNN and several Colombian television channels.

High-profile television and radio journalists reported that their programs were suspended or that the licenses had been revoked, following pressure from the authorities. The deportation of correspondents and foreign press teams has been a constant, and includes the deportation of the Univision network team and its journalist Jorge Ramos due to questions he made to Nicolás Maduro.

"We are deeply concerned at the bleak situation for freedom of expression in Venezuela, in particular the arrest and prosecution of journalists and bloggers under the so-called "Anti-Hate Law," the experts said. The Law punishes with harsh prison sentences expressions that fall under broadly defined wording on hate speech, discrimination and terrorism.

The experts call on the Venezuelan authorities to cease the measures of censorship and blockings, in particular as used against independent media. "In addition to being a fragrant violation of international law, this affects the right to receive and disseminate information of the Venezuelan population at a critical moment in their life as a society," said Kaye.

"The idea that the State can pressure the media for editorial content, block access to platforms and deport journalists is not typical of a democracy with freedom of the press," said Lanza.

The Special Rapporteurs urge the authorities to immediately release detained journalists, to cease the measures of censorship, and to review the Anti-Hate Law for Peaceful Coexistence and Tolerance. They urge the authorities to refrain from excessive blocking and filtering of content and limit its requests for takedowns to actual cases of incitement, meeting the requirements of article 19(3) and article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and 13 of the Inter-American Convention of Human Rights.