Censorship continues: 49 radio stations removed from air thus far in 2017

Due to the ongoing crisis and volatile situation, Venezuela remains on the CIVICUS Monitor's Watch List of countries where there is an immediate and developing threat to civic space.

Expression

On 24th August 2017, the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) ordered two Colombian channels, Caracol TV and RCN, to be removed from the air. According to Espacio Publico, CONATEL did not publish any information regarding the motives for the decision. Espacio Publico also pointed out that this decision was taken after President Maduro stated that international channels are starting a “communication battle” against the government. In addition, as reported on the Monitor, this is not the first time an international media outlet has been taken off the air; CNN was removed in February 2017. 

In addition, as reported previously on the Monitor, CONATEL ordered the closure of four radio stations, as they allegedly lacked required documentation. Then on 25th August 2017, two radio stations were also removed from the air under because their permits had expired. According to Espacio Público, 49 radio stations have been removed from air thus far in 2017. It also reported that 800 attacks against freedom of expression were documented from January to July 2017.

As also reported on the Monitor, journalist Carlos Rojas was being held in detention in a military prison. He was later released after more than 45 days in prison. Rojas claims he was held incommunicado for more than 20 days because he was protesting the lack of food in the prison. 

Peaceful Assembly

As reported in the latest Monitor updates, more than 5,000 people were detained during anti-government protests that started in April 2017. Many of the protesters were released on bail. However, in a joint statement human rights organisations Foro Penal and Human Rights Watch stated that there are “at least 19 who have been granted a judicial order for their release but whom intelligence officers refuse to let go, and more than 100 who have been granted a judicial order to be released on bail but justice officials delay processing the bail for prolonged periods of time”.

As featured on the Monitor's Venezuela country page, new regulations regarding peaceful assembly were issued in early 2015 (Resolution 8610) allowing soldiers to open fire if they believe their lives are at risk during demonstrations. The Supreme Court recently published a decision rejecting a request to withdraw Resolution 8610 of 2015.

Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social reported that the number of protests declined by 80 percent between July and August 2017. However, due to the economic and humanitarian crisis, people continue to protest. For example, at least three protests were documented in different cities in the country where the elderly were petitioning for their pensions to be paid.