Vienna, 17 October 2003

IPI Endorses Resolution Condemning Press Freedom Violations in Venezuela

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, leading journalists and media executives, fully endorses the resolution adopted by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), during its 59th General Assembly in Chicago, Illinois (10-14 October 2003), which strongly condemns the systematic restriction of freedom of expression in Venezuela (see below).

Venezuela was first placed on the IPI Watch List on 29 October 2000. At the time, the IPI Executive Board stated, "President Hugo Chávez, who swept to power in February 1999, has alienated important sectors of society and frequently criticised local and foreign media for ‘distorting’ his proposals for reform."

The decision was reaffirmed at IPI Board meetings on 26 January 2001, 20 October 2001, 10 May 2002, 23 November 2002, and 13 September 2003.

In January 2001, the IPI Board said, "Relations between President Chávez’s government and the largely pro-opposition press have not improved. Venezuela’s journalists complain about Chávez’s hostile attitude towards the media and his frequent verbal attacks on the press. While Article 59 of the new constitution, which stipulates that reporting must be ‘timely, truthful, and impartial’, has not been used yet to restrict the press, there are growing fears that it could lead to censorship at any moment."

In November 2002, the Board said, "President Chavez has created a climate of intimidation and hostility towards the media. [Chavez’s] aggressive rhetoric is an incitement to physical violence against the press."

Click here for more information on the IPI Watch List or for IPI’s most recent report on Venezuela.


the Venezuelan government has stepped up its systematic violations of standards of democracy and tolerance in the hemisphere, as set forth the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and is constantly implementing coercive and threatening measures against the private news media and journalists

the Constitutional Division of the Venezuelan Supreme Court issued Ruling 1942 upholding the principles of its earlier Ruling 1013, which was presented and denounced before the Inter American Press Association and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and which establishes restrictive judicial regulations for news content in addition to establishing the legal responsibility of publishers and editors of news media outlets for this content, and this ruling seriously compromises the exercise of the freedom of speech and freedom of the press

discussion continues in the National Assembly, at the government’s initiative, on a bill called the Social Responsibility in Radio and Television Act, known as the Content Law, which blatantly subjects the entire radio and television system to government control and sets forth government policy for creating news content

still pending before the Venezuelan National Assembly is a bill with the same restrictive purposes, known as the Citizen Participation Law, which sets up a People’s Watch Council to monitor the print media, and this council which would be authorized to penalize those who, according to its judgment, do not report in a "true and impartial" manner

the Venezuelan government has not enforced the various temporary preventive measures issued by the Inter-American Court designed to protect the right to personal safety, as well as the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press for publishers, editors and journalists in the news media in general; and the President himself stated publicly, in the presence of the Secretary General of the OAS and government representatives at the Hemispheric Summit on Poverty, that he would refuse to obey any measure handed down by human rights organizations in the Americas, describing their members as "criminals"

threats by the government and the president of Venezuela have continued, even going so far as to mention possible permanent denial of frequencies to radio stations because of disagreement with the news they broadcast

Principle 1 of the Declaration of Chapultepec, cited in the OAS Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, declares, "No people or society can be free without freedom of expression and of the press. The exercise of this freedom is not something authorities grant, it is an inalienable right of the people"; and Principle 5 declares, "Prior censorship, restrictions on the circulation of the media or dissemination of their reports, forced publication of information, the imposition of obstacles to the free flow of news, and restrictions on the activities and movements of journalists directly contradict freedom of the press"

to emphatically condemn the restrictions being imposed on freedom of expression in Venezuela, through illegal methods or resources that are opposed to its own Constitution, to international human rights treaties and the principles of the Declaration of Chapultepec

to denounce these facts to international, governmental and nongovernmental organizations that safeguard and guarantee freedom of press and of expression

to request that the president of the IAPA send missions to Venezuela to report on the observance of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in relation to the recall referendum provided under in the Venezuelan Constitution and under agreements promoted by the Secretary General of the OAS, the United Nations and the Carter Center.

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