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Venezuelan journalists persecuted by government are granted IACHR precautionary measures

Miguel Henrique Otero, president of El Nacional, one of the journalists granted precautionary measures by the IACHR
Miguel Henrique Otero, president of El Nacional, one of the journalists granted precautionary measures by the IACHR

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

This statement was originally published on sipiapa.org on 11 November 2015.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today welcomed the decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to grant precautionary measures to Venezuelan journalists Miguel Henrique Otero, Teodoro Petkoff, Alberto Federico Ravell and his daughter Isabel Cristina Ravell, given the serious acts of harassment and persecution by the government for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

The IACHR considered that those requesting the precautionary measures “find themselves in a serious and urgent situation in that their rights were being threatened and put at risk.” It called on Venezuela to take the necessary steps “to ensure the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression of Miguel Henrique Otero, Alberto Federico Ravell, Isabel Cristina Ravell and Teodoro Petkoff” and “in order to prevent repeated events” that gave rise to the request.

The requirements represent a responsibility on the part of the government to protect the people concerned and guarantee their human and constitutional rights. In this case it was requested “to prevent irreparable harm to the human rights, freedom of expression, personal integrity and personal freedom enshrined in Articles 4 and 1, respectively, of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.”

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared, “While we welcome the IACHR decision to grant the precautionary measures we are disappointed to learn that the government of Venezuela will not comply with them, as it has neither done with other decisions of the inter-American system. That was what happened with the latest ruling of the Inter-American Court that the government should allow the reopening of RCTV television channel and return it to its shareholders.”

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, added that these precautionary measures “have the dual effect of making a government responsible in the case of consequences being suffered by people for whom protection is sought and maintaining active the denunciation of violations of freedom of expression that are committed in countries of our hemisphere.”

Miguel Henrique Otero, president and publisher of El Nacional, Teodoro Petkoff, of Tal Cual, and Alberto Federico Ravell, of the Web site La Patilla, have been suffering “repeated stigmatizing statements,” “being followed and spied upon,” “criminal and civil libel proceedings” and “prohibition from leaving the country,” among other methods of harassment by senior government officials seeking to stop those media from publishing information that could be uncomfortable for the government.

In April this year Venezuelan National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello filed a 79-million-dollar civil lawsuit for alleged defamation against three media that had at the beginning of the year reproduced a report by the Spanish newspaper ABC about his alleged links with drug trafficking. The executives of the media involved in the legal action were prohibited from leaving the country.

In its November 9 document the IACHR details the attacks on journalists and news media in Venezuela and concludes that in that country “there exists a cumulative series of factors that give rise to a serious impact on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.”

Concerning the congressional elections to be held on December 6 the inter-American body declared that “the complained of reduction in information pluralism and the reduction of the number of independent news media means what is urgent is the adoption of measures for the proposed beneficiaries to be able to exercise the right to freedom of expression and movement without being subjected to acts of harassment for carrying out their journalistic duties.”

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