Venezuela Repression Condemned by World’s Press
Press release by the World Association of Newspapers
The Board of the World Association of Newspapers has strongly condemned the repression of freedom of speech and the press in Venezuela, and has called on President Hugo Chávez to stop proposed legislation and other measures aimed at silencing the independent press.
"The government "has once again threatened to apply military measures and repression against the media and to enact new and pending legislation limiting freedom of the press," said the WAN Board in a resolution which was passed on the eve of the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum, which brought more than 1,000 newspaper executives to Istanbul, Turkey, for the global meetings of the world’s press.
In cracking down on the opposition press, Venezuela has recently created a government-controlled committee to regulate the content of news broadcasting and has reopened discussions that would criminalize libel statutes. Recently, the majority of pro-government members of Congress have approved a petition that asks the Attorney General to annul the nationality of several Venezuelan journalists, media owners and other opposition personalities. The resolution said:
The government of President Hugo Chávez Frías, ignoring his obligations and his commitment to respect the freedom of speech and the free press in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999, has once again threatened to apply military measures and repression against the media and to enact new and pending legislation limiting the freedom of the press;
In line with the abovementioned, on an initiative of the government, the National Assembly has approved after two debates the draft Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, leading to the creation of government controlled watchdog committees to regulate the contents of news broadcasting; and, besides, it has re-opened discussions on the reform to the penal code, which would punish with prison those who transmit false information through the media or protest against public officials as well as further criminalizing the current libel statutes;
The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) in its sentence number 1,942, validated the so-called contempt laws to punish criticisms by the press and journalists against the public powers and their representatives, in open contrast with the principles of democracy; and with this new sentence strengthens a previous sentence, number 1,013, of the same court, which has established general rules that restrict free speech and the freedom of the press in Venezuela,
The World Association of Newspapers Agrees to:
Condemn the impending implementation by the Venezuelan State of all these aforementioned policies against free speech and the freedom of the press.
The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom world-wide. It represents 18,000 newspapers; its membership includes 72 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 13 news agencies and ten regional and world-wide press groups.
Inquiries to: Larry Kilman, Director of Communications, WAN, 7 rue Geoffroy St Hilaire, 75005 Paris France. Tel: +33 1 47 42 85 00. Fax: +33 1 47 42 49 48. Mobile: +33 6 10 28 97 36. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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