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Venezuela rejects UN Human Rights Council freedom of expression recommendations

(IFEX-ALC/IFEX) - Geneva, October 11, 2011 - The Venezuelan government has rejected all the recommendations on freedom of expression contained in the final report approved today by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Venezuela in Geneva, Switzerland.

The final report contained 148 recommendations, of which 95 were accepted, 15 deferred to the next stage (March 2012) and 38 rejected. Among those rejected, 13 specifically referred to freedom of expression. Members of the IFEX-ALC lobbied more than 60 diplomatic missions accredited to the UNHRC in order to have the recommendations on freedom of expression included in the final report. An IFEX-ALC delegation present in Geneva continued this lobbying effort.

In view of the freedom of expression situation in Venezuela, which is characterised by ongoing tension between the government and the media, IFEX-ALC had recommended that the Venezuelan government: thoroughly investigate attacks against journalists and media outlets and identify those responsible for these acts; explicitly condemn physical attacks against journalists and media outlets; allow official visits to the country by the special rapporteurs on freedom of expression of the Inter-American and UN systems, which have not occurred since 2002; and decriminalise defamation.

The IFEX-ALC delegation noted with disappointment the Venezuelan government's reluctance to accept the free expression recommendations, which are based on internationally-accepted standards and agreements to which the country has a responsibility to adhere. 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.

Moreover, IFEX-ALC believes that Venezuela's UPR process could have been carried out with greater openness and transparency, and that the announced cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is of vital importance for the advancement of human rights in the country.

Finally, IFEX-ALC hopes the Venezuelan government will implement the accepted recommendations referring to cooperation and a dialogue with human rights defenders and civil society organisations, and expresses its readiness to participate actively in these processes.

*IFEX-ALC is an alliance of 17 organisations in Latin America and the Caribbean that promote and defend the right to freedom of expression in the countries of the region. The Venezuela UPR delegation consisted of IPYS-Venezuela, ARTICLE 19 and FOPEA, working together with the International Network of Human Rights (INHR), an organisation associated with the Alliance in Geneva.

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