We, the members of IFEX-ALC, the alliance that defends freedom of expression and press freedom in 15 Latin American and Caribbean countries, express great concern over the conditions under which independent journalists are working in Venezuela. These include a resurgence of threats, harassment, and assaults against media outlets and journalists.
The deterioration in respect for the rights to freedom of expression, access to public information, and free and professional journalism have played out in recent weeks in the form of judicial harassment of Alfredo Meza, Ewald Scharfenberg and Joseph Poliszuk, founders and editors of the Armando.info site, as well as Roberto Deniz, a reporter for the site.
Following threats and legal actions against them based on accusations of defamation and aggravated libel, the four Venezuelan journalists have been forced to flee the country in order to safeguard their liberty and freedom of movement. The accusations relate to published reports relating to a government programme that distributes food at subsidised prices to certain sectors of the population.
We note that these threats and legal actions run contrary to freedom of expression and put journalism's role of scrutinising power structures and those in power at risk. Legal harassment in Venezuela has directly affected 31 journalists and media outlet directors. Its objective is to silence criticism and the airing of grievances that are in the public interest.
These judicial measures violate international freedom of expression and right to information standards, as laid out and ratified in articles 23, 57 and 58 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. They also run contrary to the standards established by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, as well as the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet (2011) and the Organisation of American States' (OAS) Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression.
We, the 24 IFEX-ALC member organisations, call on the Venezuelan state to comply with its international obligations guaranteeing respect for the full exercise of professional and independent journalism, which is needed to offer reliable information on issues of public interest and protect the information rights of citizens.
The IFEX-ALC Alliance includes the following organizations:Association for Civil Rights
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Centro de Archivos y Acceso a la Información Pública
Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala - CERIGUA
Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social
Comité por la Libre Expresión - C-Libre
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Fundamedios - Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study
Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresión - IPLEX
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de Venezuela
Latin American Observatory of Regulation, Media and Convergence - OBSERVACOM
National Press Association
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión - OLA
Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay
Trinidad and Tobago's Publishers and Broadcasters Association
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)