Today, 27 June, Venezuela marks the day of the journalist, a day established in commemoration of the founding of Correo del Orinoco, a newspaper established by Simón Bolívar in the 19th Century. Bolívar, better known as “The Liberator,” was a man with progressive ideals, whose thinking was governed by the defence of the rights of his society; he prized equality, respect and freedom of expression. However, these values so important for all peoples and cultures in the world, including for the Venezuelan people, have been severely diminished by the increasing number of attacks which Venezuelan journalists have faced in the last few years. Relentless attacks against media workers as well as the failure of the State to promptly investigate and prosecute perpetrators have led to a climate of almost total impunity.
According to reports between January and May 2017 alone, there have been 471 violations of freedom of expression in Venezuela. Freedom House classifies Venezuela’s journalists as “not free”. In one month alone – between 28 March and 8 May 2017 – the Institute of Press and Society (Instituto de Prensa y Sociedad, IPYS) in Venezuela recorded 115 complaints of violations, restrictions and attacks on freedom of expression, equal to one third of all violations recorded in 2016.
The Venezuelan Alliance for Freedom of Expression, made up of representatives of universities, unions and non-governmental organisations, has warned of the escalation of violations against freedom of expression over the course of the past 60 days of public protest. The group states: “We reject the constant physical aggressions against journalists and citizen journalists, theft of equipment, harassment of foreign press, threats and arbitrary detentions, blocking of websites, police surveillance and persecution through social media”.
PEN International urgently calls on the federal authorities of Venezuela and all political groups, in solidarity with local organisations, to put a complete stop to the repression of journalists and writers. PEN urges the government of Venezuela to uphold its obligations to free expression under international law, as a State Party to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Additionally, PEN’s Centres in Latin America, join with their colleagues in Venezuela in defence of freedom of expression.
San Miguel de Allende PEN