IAPA concerned about media restrictions in Venezuela

Miami (August 3, 2004).- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed its concern over a decision last week by the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling in favor of the mandatory licensing of journalists, which is considered a limitation to the practice of journalism in that country.

The Constitutional Chamber of the Venezuelan Supreme Court ratified a law that would require, among other conditions, a university degree in journalism, communications, or equivalent, from a Venezuelan university; membership in the National Association of Journalists; and also imposes jail time between three to six months for those that practice journalism in an illegal manner.

The decision of the High Court that reverses an appeal made since 1995 to several articles of the Law on the Practice of Journalism of 1994 “goes against the complete exercise of freedom of the press by defining who can and who cannot be a journalist. It is a decision that restricts freedom of expression and is contrary to international doctrine,” affirmed IAPA President Jack Fuller.

He was referring to the Advisory Opinion of 1985 from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that establishes that “a mandatory licensing law is not compatible with the American Convention on Human Rights; this prevents those who are not members of journalist associations from practicing journalism and limits access to the profession to only those who graduate with a certain university degree.”

Meanwhile, he mentioned that the Declaration of Chapultepec and the Inter-American Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights states that “compulsory membership or the requirement of a university degree for the practice of journalism constitute unlawful restrictions of freedom of expression.”

Fuller, from Tribune Publishing Company, will lead an IAPA delegation to Venezuela on August 6-7.

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