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Freedom of expression continues to decline following government's rejection of UN recommendations

(IFEX-ALC) - 12 March 2012 - The Venezuelan government's rejection of all 13 recommendations regarding freedom of expression formulated on 11 October 2011 as a result of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) conducted by the United Nation's Human Rights Council signifies a difficult year ahead in the country, according to the IFEX-ALC, an alliance of 16 members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The rejection of the recommendations without any explanation indicates that freedom of expression has become a taboo subject for the Venezuelan authorities.
In 2012, two elections will take place in the country, including the crucial presidential election scheduled for 7 October. History shows that, since 2002, attacks on journalists and media outlets in Venezuela have increased in election years, a pattern that is evident throughout the continent.

In the opinion of IFEX-ALC, the recommendations presented to Venezuela in October 2011 by 13 member states of the Human Rights Council were and continue to be relevant. In the time since the recommendations were formulated, 40 incidents involving attacks or limitations on the work of journalists or media outlets have taken place in Venezuela, according to IPYS-Venezuela records (see appendix). The list of incidents includes seven physical assaults, a number of seizures of equipment, systematic hacking of personal accounts of independent journalists involved in social networks and the initiation of new legal proceedings against the Globovisión television station, which could eventually result in the station's closure.

These incidents could have been avoided if the Venezuelan government had accepted and applied the UPR recommendations that it rejected without any explanation. The acceptance of the recommendations would provide a clear indication of collaboration and openness to the international human rights system and the Human Rights Council itself.

The situation has not only not improved; it could in fact deteriorate even more in 2012. In the midst of the election campaign, the extreme political polarisation in the country could translate into attacks and harassment perpetrated by politically- affiliated groups or state authorities, putting at risk the security of journalists and hindering the free flow of information, similar to situations encountered in the past. Few of these types of cases are investigated or brought to justice, this being one of the UPR recommendations rejected by the government.

This urgent matter is of concern to Venezuelan civil society and should also be of concern to the international community, the Human Rights Council member states and observer countries.

As such, IFEX-ALC calls for and invites the Venezuelan government to accept its responsibilities with respect to freedom of expression by accepting the UPR recommendations, all of which were derived from international human rights instruments that have been signed by Venezuela, and to comply with all international freedom of expression standards. Likewise, IFEX-ALC condemns the Venezuela government's failure to comply with universal freedom of expression standards and believes it is imperative for the country to immediately implement measures that will assist in preventing a further deterioration of the situation, protecting journalists and guaranteeing the free flow information. IFEX-ALC reiterates in particular the need to consider the recommendations presented in October 2011 as part of its own mission to the Venezuela UPR in October 2011, most notably the following points:

- That the Venezuelan authorities promptly and effectively investigate attacks on journalists and media outlets in order to identify those responsible for these actions.
- That the Venezuelan authorities explicitly condemn physical attacks on journalists and media outlets.
- That charges of "contempt" or "insult" be decriminalised in Venezuelan legislation.

Click below to download a matrix of free expression violations in Venezuela:
English_Cuadro_Matriz 21.02.12.doc (348 KB)

Click below to download the IFEX-ALC submission during consideration of the Venezuela UPR report:
Intervention_Venezuela_UPR_5.03.12.doc (1403 KB)

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