Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Venezuela to the Inter-American Court

May 9, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human rights in Case No. 12.828, Marcel Granier et. al. RCTV, Venezuela.

The facts of this case refer to the decision of the State of Venezuela not to renew the authorization to the frequency to Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). As a consequence of this decision, on May 28, 2007, RCTV stopped the transmission as an open television station, causing an impact to the freedom of expression of its stockholders, directors and journalists.

In its Merits Report, the Commission concluded that this decision violated the right to freedom of expression, the right to equality and non-discrimination, and the administrative due process. Although the formal objective declared by the State to support diversity and pluralism was indeed a legitimate public interest, the evidence of the case showed that the decision was based on the editorial line of the station. In this way, the decision was a clear act of deviation of power and an indirect restriction incompatible with the right to freedom of expression. In addition, RCTV was treated differently in comparison with other TV operators whose circumstances related to the concession were identical. The IACHR submitted the difference of treatment to strict scrutiny and concluded that the State could not justify its acts and, therefore, it also incurred in a violation of the rights to equal protection under the law and non-discrimination. The Commission also concluded that the process that led to the confiscation of property of RCTV violated the administrative due process.

The case was sent to the Inter-American Court on February 21, 2013, because the State did not inform the Commission, in the established period of time, about compliance with the recommendations contained in its Report on the Merits regarding this case. In that report, the Inter-American Commission recommended the State of Venezuela to initiate proceedings to allocate a free-to-air nationwide television frequency in which RCTV is able to participate, at a minimum, under conditions of equality. The process should be open, independent and transparent, apply clear, objective and reasonable criteria, and avoid any political consideration that discriminates on the basis of a media outlet’s editorial stance, in keeping with the standards set forth in this report; to make reparations to the victims for the damages they sustained as a direct result of the due process violations; and to adopt the measures necessary to guarantee that the process whereby radio and television frequencies are granted and renewed comports with the Venezuelan State’s international obligations vis-à-vis freedom of expression.

This case will allow the IA Court to analyze for the first time the effects on the right to freedom of expression, in its individual and social dimensions, as a consequence of the actions of the State related to the assignment of radio and television licenses. When deciding this case, the Court will have to establish which are the substantive and procedural guarantees necessary to assure that this procedures do not become a mean to indirectly restrict the right to freedom of expression which, although having a legality veil, seek to pressure or punish as well as reward journalists and media outlets based on their editorial lines.

Additionally, this case will allow the Court to deepen its jurisprudence regarding the principle of equality and non-discrimination, especially when the States undertake a differential treatment based on the political opinion. The Court would have to establish the scrutiny that needs to be made in these cases, as well as the supporting parameters and the substantive criteria that must be followed to evaluate whether or not a differential treatment of this nature is compatible with the American Convention on Human Rights.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 34/13