Thursday, October 13, 2011

Venezuela: Government rejects UPR recommendations on free expression

Source: IFEX

On 11 October, the Venezuelan government rejected all requests to improve aspects of freedom of expression recommended by IFEX members and included in the final report of the United Nations Human Rights Council during the 12th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva.

Expressing grave disappointment after its lobbying at the UPR, IFEX-ALC, an alliance of 17 Latin and Caribbean IFEX member organisations, said, "IFEX-ALC hopes the Venezuelan government will modify its stance, and that its current position is not a reflection of the authorities' general disregard for free expression standards."

All 13 of the rejected recommendations for freedom of expression were put forward by member countries, who had been approached by IFEX-ALC. Members of IFEX-ALC lobbied more than 60 diplomatic missions accredited to the UN Human Rights Council to include the recommendations, which covered the gamut from allowing an official visit to Venezuela by the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, to decriminalising insult. IFEX-ALC also called for specific legislation on freedom of information, which Venezuela currently does not have, and recommended that Venezuela guarantee plurality and diversity in broadcast media.

The IFEX-ALC delegation in Geneva blogged and tweeted throughout the UPR process, uploading videos and reporting on individual countries' presentations on Venezuela and the responses of Venezuelan government representatives. See the blog here.

Between 2007 and 2010, the Institute for Press and Society of Venezuela (IPYS), an IFEX-ALC member, documented 449 cases of attacks against and restrictions imposed on journalists. In half of the incidents, journalists were threatened with violence or physically assaulted. Indicative of the culture of impunity, legal action was only taken in 39 of the attacks on journalists that were reported to authorities in 2010 and 2011, reports IPYS.

Human Rights Watch also submitted a report to the UPR, citing the infamous "desacato" (insult) laws that make "disrespecting" government officials a crime and the 2010 Telecommunications Act that gives the authorities power to revoke broadcasting licences under the vague justification of security and national interests.

Find out more about how to lobby at the UPR using IFEX's Guide to the UPR, which includes details on how to submit a report, and is available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

As well, you can find out how IFEX-ALC members also lobbied for free expression recommendations when Honduras was reviewed during the UPR session in November 2010 (English, French and Spanish only).

From Tegus to Geneva: Defending freedom of expression through the UPR

The case study gives some indication of the months spent preparing for the UPR, including lobbying in the home country and with member countries of the Human Rights Council to get them to raise free expression concerns during the UPR.