His Excellency Hugo Chávez Fríaz
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Palacio de Miraflores

Fax: (+58212) 806 3221

Vienna, 7 December 2004

Your Excellency,

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, leading journalists and media executives in over 120 countries, strongly condemns the decision to promulgate a controversial media law that poses serious threats to freedom of expression in Venezuela.

The draft Law on Social Responsibility of Radio and Television, commonly known as the Media Content Law, was narrowly approved by Parliament in Caracas on 25 November following two days of heated political debate. It was subsequently signed into law by Your Excellency on 6 December when you described it as legislation that would end "media fascism."

The law supports restrictive and puritanical viewing standards. Among other things, it would ban vulgar language on TV and radio in daytime hours and prohibit images and sounds related to alcohol and drug use and violence. It provides for heavy fines or the closure of stations that broadcast content that includes "incitement to war, disruptions of public order or crime," or promotes "threats to national security".

The law also states that the broadcasting of material that "promotes, supports or incites disrespect towards legitimate institutions and authorities" will result in similarly harsh penalties. This restriction is regarded by IPI as a direct attempt to silence opposition voices and encourage self-censorship.

The law establishes an 11 person Directorate of Social Responsibility, who will be responsible for enforcing the law and determining punishments. Seven members of the directorate are government appointees and the body will be able to impose arbitrary penalties against the media.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has said that the vague language of the law could be used to impose indirect restrictions on freedom of expression. Not only does this threaten journalists' ability to carry out their professional duties without fear of harassment and intimidation, it also compromises the public's right to information and limits their ability to participate in public debate.

We strongly urge that Your Excellency withdraw this law, which infringes internationally accepted standards of freedom of expression. We also urge that you take greater steps to promote a more open and tolerant exchange of information and opinion in Venezuela.

We thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Johann P. Fritz


regreso a documentos            regreso a Libertad de Expresión