Freedom of Expression

Press Release R23/19

Office of the Special Rapporteur demands the immediate release of journalists detained in Venezuela and refrain from expelling foreign correspondents

February 1st, 2019

Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR condemns the detention of journalists by security forces of the State of Venezuela and the practice of expelling foreign correspondents who enter the country to cover the political situation in Venezuela. According to information of public knowledge, at least seven foreign journalists would have been arbitrarily detained in the last week, of which two Chilean journalists would have been expelled from the country.

French journalists Pierre Caillé and Baptiste des Monstiers, drivers of the "Quotidien" program, and their driver in the country, Rolando Rodríguez, wer-e reportedly arrested at noon on January 29 in the vicinity of the Miraflores Palace. According to what was reported, they would have been arrested for recording images in the vicinity of the Miraflores Palace building while covering a demonstration.

Likewise, Chilean journalists, Rodrigo Pérez and Gonzalo Barahona, of TVN, were arrested on January 29 and expelled the following day. Likewise, Venezuelan journalists Maikel Yriarte and Ana Rodríguez, who accompanied these two foreign journalists, were arrested and later released. According to what was reported, the reason for the arrest would have been because they were in a "security zone" in the vicinity of the Miraflores Palace, while they were covering a public demonstration.

According to the information available, Leonardo Muñoz, Mauren Barriga, and Gonzalo Domínguez Loeda, correspondent foreign journalists of Agencia EFE, were detained by Venezuelan State security forces in Caracas. Muñoz was reportedly arrested while on his way to cover a social demonstration on the morning of January 30. According to the information, the driver accompanying him, José Salas, who was Venezuelan, would have been also arrested. Regarding the latter, there are no news on his release. In relation to the other journalists, on the same date they would have been detained by the Sebin in the office of the Agency and taken to "El Helicoide" to be subjected to interrogations.

Chancellor Jorge Arreaza said in social networks that journalists "cannot assign themselves an accreditation" and that "some foreign journalists have entered the country irregularly without complying with the respective work permit application", in addition to the fact that "several have tried to access the Presidential Palace without accreditation."

The Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls that accreditation schemes for journalists are appropriate only when is necessary to provide them with privileged access to certain places and/or events; such schemes should be overseen by an independent body and accreditation decisions should be taken pursuant to a fair and transparent process, based on clear and nondiscriminatory criteria published in advance. Accreditation should never be subject to withdrawal based only on the content of an individual journalist’s work.

"National and foreign press have a fundamental role in covering the situation of political and economic crisis that Venezuela is experiencing, which, by the demands of the National Assembly and the Venezuelan people, must put an end to the rupture of the institutional order," said Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. "Journalists and international media are crucial to cover events of international interest and relevance and keep Venezuelans informed in the country and abroad, as well as the international community. Journalists also create an invaluable record of the demonstrations, protests, and the grave humanitarian situation the country is experiencing," he added.

The State has an obligation to guarantee the work of journalists and refrain from imposing restrictions on foreign journalists who travel to Venezuela to cover the situation in a context of censorship and pressure on the national press. As the Office of the Special Rapporteur has mentioned on several occasions, the right to freedom of expression does not end at national borders and States must not prevent or impose disproportionate requirements on correspondents and journalists who seek to enter and remain in the country.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls that State agents must respect and guarantee the work of journalists, photojournalists, and camerapersons of the media that cover protests, and any aggression, destruction, or kidnapping of equipment or materials and arrests constitute violations to freedom of expression, in addition to other rights involved.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur calls on the State to guarantee that journalists and communicators can carry out their informative work and not be detained, threatened, assaulted, or limited in any way in their rights to practice their profession; In addition, their work materials must not be destroyed or confiscated by public authorities.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.