Freedom of expression violations reported during regional elections

On 15th October 2017, Venezuela held regional elections for governors' seats in 23 states. The ruling party won a majority of the states, but the opposition did not accept the results. Local organisation Observatorio Electoral Venezolano (OEV) issued a report highlighting some issues prior to and during the elections. For example, OEV pointed out that the fact that the election date was decided illegally and that 42 political parties were deemed illegal by the electoral body. In addition, civil society organisations were not allowed to monitor the elections, among others issues. During the election day, the organisation documented cases of violence in some of the voting centers and witnessed incidents of intimidation. Local organisation PROVEA issued a statement after the elections calling on the international community to document and raise awareness of the limitations on the full exercise of citizens' political rights.  

Peaceful Assembly

As reported on a previous Monitor update, the number of protests has declined over the last few months. However, due to the political and economic crisis in the country, several protests took place during September and October. During some of those protests, security forces used excessive force. Local organisation INCIDE reported that during the months of July and September, 111 protests were documented where citizens gathered to demand food and medicine in Sucre State. 

In addition, it was reported that on 25th September, a protest took place in Caracas and security forces used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators and detained three people. Furthermore, during a protest in the State of Falcon on 10th October, a college professor was arrested. He was released a few days later. After the regional election results came in, a group of people protested outside the regional electoral office from Bolivar State. Three people were arrested during the demonstration. 

Expression

Local organisation Espacio Publico reported 16 cases of attacks against freedom of expression during the regional elections. These attacks included threats from police officers, physical aggression, cyber attacks, and prohibited access to the voting venues for media coverage.

The organisation also documented other violations during the month of October. For example, three journalists were arbitrarily detained while trying to access Tocorón prison to conduct some interviews. They were released 48 hours later. On 4th October 2017, it was reported that a molotov bomb was thrown at journalist Felix Amaya's house in Coro city. 

Regarding access to information, Transparency Venezuela reported that the official website where information regarding public contractors is published has been considerably reduced. Previously, citizens could find 29 items with the contractors’ information, now it is only possible to access five. This violates the right to access public information and the duty of public contractors to remain accountable. 

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.