10 August 2009 Proposed media laws in Venezuela could be used as a tool for political intimidation and would seriously curtail press freedom and potentially criminalize legitimate dissent, an independent United Nations human rights expert warned today.
Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said the draft “Special Law against Media Crimes” – which have been presented to Venezuela’s National Assembly – “would involve serious violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression… if it is adopted in its current form.”
Mr. La Rue said he was especially concerned that the draft laws included the concept of “media crimes,” which he warned “could be used as a tool for political intimidation, which may lead to the criminalization of dissent and criticism.”
He appealed to lawmakers in the National Assembly to incorporate international human rights principles during their discussions about the draft laws. Venezuela is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression and defines when the right may be restricted.
“No government in the world has the right to silence critics or those who oppose the State with threats of criminal proceedings,” Mr. La Rue said, noting that the measures proposed in the draft laws would “undermine pluralism of the media, and consequently transparency and debate on matters of public interest that should exist in a democratic society.”
The Special Rapporteur added that “transparency implies that access to information, along with the right to freely express one’s opinion and belief without limitation, is guaranteed.”
Mr. La Rue, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, serves in his role in an unpaid and independent capacity.
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