Concerns rise over freedom of expression in light of media shutdown

During the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2017, several civil society organisations issued a statement calling on the Human Rights Council to prioritise addressing the country's human rights situation. The statement referred to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' report that stated that "extensive human rights violations and abuses have been committed in the context of anti-government protests in Venezuela". The organisations also called on the Council to: 

"[S]end a clear message to the Venezuelan government that these abuses are not tolerated and those responsible of abuses will eventually be brought to justice when judicial independence is restored in the country".

Expression

As reported on the Monitor, regulatory body CONATEL has ordered the closure of several radio stations since January 2017. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern over this issue, stating that the IACHR: 

“condemns the closure of more than 50 media outlets in Venezuela under procedures that depart from the principles that guarantee freedom of expression, and urges the State to urgently adopt the necessary measures to ensure that the media outlets -both domestic and foreign- can operate in the country with legal guarantees and without any distinction based on their editorial line”.

Access to information continues to be undermined in Venezuela. Journalist Andreina Flores reported that media outlets were ordered to stop reporting during a press conference with President Maduro. In addition, local organisation Espacio Publico reported that security officials raided local radio station FM Center and confiscated the recordings of a series of programs by journalist Caterina Valentino, during which she interviewed the protesters leading the demonstrations that have taken place in the country in the last three months.

It was also reported that the media outlet Version Final was attacked with an explosive device. Although the staff of the media outlet was not injured during the attack, at least four vehicles suffered damages. In addition, on 16th September 2017 digital media outlet Tal Cual reported its website as being offline due to a hacker attack.

Association

As previously reported on the Monitor, activist Carlos Graffe was arbitrarily detained in the city of Valencia. Family members have denounced how personnel from the military prison are not allowing Graffe to access the medical treatment he needs after having surgery in May 2017. In addition his defense team claims that they do not have access to the court files and after two months of detention, they do not know if Graffe was formally charged with a crime. Graffe's case was highlighted in an August 2017 statement by 63 civil society organisations in which they also rejected and denounced the systematic criminalisation of civil society organisations, union leaders, activists, and HRDs in the country. 

The lack of access to medical treatment in prison is not an isolated issue and in some instances, such as in the case of political activist Carlos Andrés García, it could have fatal consequences. It was reported that for over a month García endured medical issues and a court even allowed him to be transferred to house arrest, but the prison personnel never executed the order. In September 2017, he suffered a cerebrovascular attack in his cell and died as a consequence. 

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.