CSOs condemned harassment against activist Oscar Costero
On 23rd May, national and international civil society organisations strongly condemned the systematic attacks and judicial persecution against Wikipedia editor and human rights defender Oscar Costero. The attacks - via a smear campaign against Costero and another editor, Santiago De Viana - began in 2019, after access to the Spanish version of Wikipedia was blocked for a week by CANTV, Venezuela's largest telecommunications provider. On 17th October 2022, Costero and De Viana were stopped and questioned by police while trying to renew their passports. The police informed Costero for the first time that there was an open investigation being conducted on him. Costero has faced defamation campaigns, arbitrary detention, violations of due process, and violations of his right to freedom of expression.
1/ Soy editor de #Wikipedia desde 2005 y desde hace años me dedico a enseñar sobre cómo editar en la plataforma. Comienzo hilo de cómo el Ministerio Público en #Venezuela empezó una persecución penal en mi contra desde el año pasado. https://t.co/cy8HmJiABn— Oscar Costero (@oscar_costero) March 24, 2023
On 22nd June, the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict reported 602 protests taking place in May. According to the organisation, people protested to demand decent salaries and pensions. The state continues to ignore such demands from citizens and has deepened its systematic attack on those demanding better working conditions. The Nicolas Maduro government maintains a repressive policy against those who protest. Trade union and social leaders have faced threats, criminalisation, and judicial persecution for demanding and defending their labour rights in boycotts and strikes.
On 5th July, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights once again condemned the violations of the right to freedom of expression in Venezuela in a report presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The report declared that Venezuela must adopt measures to prevent, mitigate, and sanction any attacks, intimidation, and criminalisation of dissenting voices and ensure meaningful, inclusive, and viable participation of all stakeholders in order to guarantee the full enjoyment and protection of civic space. In this presentation, Marysabel Rodríguez, a human rights defender, said that the regulatory uncertainty over the media is a control mechanism that led to the closure of 81 radio stations in 2022 and at least five thus far in 2023. In addition, access to objective information has been limited due to government pressure leading to the closure of news and opinion programmes, ongoing blackouts that limit the operation of media outlets, and the blocking of access to digital media outlets. The UN High Commissioner also documented the blocking of 44 websites, the online resources of three civil society organisations, five online digital services and three privacy services. Private and state internet providers blocked access to these sites without formal orders or notifications.
In June 2023, Espacio Público noted that the Venezuelan government systematically violated the right to freedom of expression, with 16 cases and 42 types of violations, mainly intimidation and threats. In particular, 20 of the 42 violations of freedom of expression were acts of intimidation, with eight threats, six cases of judicial harassment, five cases of censorship, two instances of verbal harassment and one assault. The main victims in June were eleven individuals and ten journalists out of 28 victims reported, as well as 11 arrests of citizens for exercising free expression.