Freedom of Expression

Press Release R 107/14



R 107/14




Washington, D.C., September 22, 2014 – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deepest concern for the deterioration of the right to freedom of expression in Venezuela in light of the recent events that took place in that country. These events include the continued stigmatization by high-level public officials of critical media outlets and journalists, punitive lawsuits and the dismissal of journalists, and the reported blocking of the internet signal of media outlets.


According to the information received, on September 18, 2014, President of the Republic Nicolás Maduro accused CNN en Español, El Nuevo Herald, NTN24, among others media outlets, who had reported on deaths that took place in the Central Hospital of Maracay of "psychological terrorism", "media terrorism", among other expressions. The President called on the justice system to adopt new and greater national and international measures against those media outlets, and to act firmly and strictly to "punish" all those responsible and "prosecute terrorism."


On September 17, caricaturist Rayma Suprani was fired from newspaper El Universal allegedly for having published a cartoon that illustrated the situation of the country’s healthcare sector while using the signature of late President Hugo Chávez as part of the cartoon. Suprani had worked for the newspaper for nineteen years. Her dismissal is added to the more than 20 journalists or columnists who left the paper after El Universal’s owners changed in last July. The newspaper’s journalists issued a press release in which they expressed their decision to defend "the country’s informative spaces despite growing restrictions and censorship." Similar situations have occurred in other media.


On September 16, international news channel NTN24 had its website tampered with. Access from Venezuela to all the web portals of the channel, its applications and its live streaming signal is reportedly blocked. In a press release, the channel alleged that the blocking originated from inside Venezuelan telecommunications State corporation CANTV and was expanded to other providers. On February 12, channel NTN24’s signal was taken off the daypart of all the cable companies in the country by order of President Nicolás Maduro. Likewise, RCN Radio announced that its engineers managed to establish that CANTV "reportedly blocked the IP addresses, domain names and DNS records of all the portals of the news system of RCN Radio".


These events have taken place in the context of a dramatic scarcity in newsprint, reportedly caused by the process needed to request foreign currency to import it. This has led at least 12 media outlets to temporarily or permanently cease publication and at least 18 outlets to substantially reduce their size. These events are added to the administrative and criminal lawsuits brought against media outlets that are critical of the government, as is the case of newspaper TalCual’s media executives and columnist, who were sued for publishing a story that offended a public official. An interim order prohibits them from leaving the country. For their reporting, the defendants could face up to four years in prison and million-dollar fines.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur calls upon the State of Venezuela to adhere to the strictest international standards on freedom of expression in order to guarantee the full enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and due process by media outlets and journalists without arbitrary interventions. The Office of the Special Rapporteur further calls upon the State to investigate the cause of the blocking of the web portals and applications of media outlets and adopt the necessary measures to reestablish access, in accordance with international obligations regarding Internet, and to avoid using direct or indirect methods to prevent the publication of critical opinions or complaints against public officials.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (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.