Venezuelan media analyst Luis Britto Garcia said Wednesday that the Inter-American Human Rights Court overstepped its jurisdiction by ordering the Venezuelan state to re-issue a broadcast license to the RCTV private media outlet.
The Inter-American Human Rights Court, which forms part of the Organization of American States (OAS) human rights system in the hemisphere, published Monday its sentence that found that Venezuela had “violated freedom of expression” when it decided not to renew the over-the-air broadcast license of RCTV.
“Human rights refer to human beings, it has never been held that the rights of a transnational (corporation) are human rights;” Brito told Aporrea in an interview.
In its ruling the court argued that victims of the alleged violation of freedom of expression were the owners and employees of RCTV.
Venezuela decided not to renew the channel’s license in 2007, which had broadcast over the air since 1958, after authorities found that the channel had run afoul of the law on several occasions, broadcasting material in contravention of recognized regulations.
Venezuelan officials argued that RCTV’s most serious infraction was its open support for a 2002 coup attempt that briefly ousted then President Hugo Chavez.
In its sentence, the court admitted there was a coup attempt in April 2002, that private media played an active role in that coup attempt, and that the private media towed the line of the short-lived coup regime. However, the court argued that the blame for the tense relationship between private media outlets and the government after the coup attempt lay with the government.
The Venezuelan government argued that an outlet that supported an undemocratic rupture was no longer entitled to hold a license. Like most jurisdictions throughout the world, the ability to broadcast over the air is a privilege granted by the Venezuelan state.
“The fact that the state owns the radio spectrum gives it the right to establish the methodology and timing for the concessions to be granted. No concession belongs to any private company, however powerful it may be,” said Roy Daza, one of Venezuela’s representatives to the Latin American Parliament.
Instead the court decided that the decision to not renew the license was pre-determined and designed to “impede the communication and circulation of ideas and opinions.”
The sentence of the Inter-American Human Rights Court was based on findings made by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, which referred the case to the court after it deemed Venezuela to not be in compliance with a ruling issued by the commission.
The original petition made to the commission was made by two opposition-aligned Venezuelan lawyers, Carlos Ayala Corao and Pedro Nikken. Ayayla is alleged to have been the author of the Decree Transitional Government of National Unity, also known as the Carmona Decree, which illegally purported to dissolve the government during the brief coup led by businessperson Pedro Carmona. In interviews Nikken has referred to the democratically-elected Venezuelan government as “totalitarian dictatorship.”
The court gave Venezuela a year to reinstate RCTV. However it is unlikely that the channel will return to the airwaves as the Venezuelan government defends the notion that the decision to grant licenses belongs exclusively to the state, a fact recognized by the court itself in its ruling.
According to Britto, the Supreme Court of Venezuela has also affirmed that rulings made by international courts that run contrary to the Venezuelan constitution are inadmissible.
Additionally, Venezuela withdrew from the Inter-American human rights system in 2012 and no longer recognizes its jurisdiction. The court argues that because the alleged violation took place before Venezuela withdrew that it still has jurisdiction.
Venezuela withdrew from the Inter-American human rights system due to criticisms that it was often used by the United States and its allies to attack the Venezuelan government.
“This is a new aggression against Venezuela from an organization that is nothing more than an instrument of the U.S. If there was any doubt about that, well this decision confirms it,” said Britto.
This is a view shared by Roy Daza, who said, “We do not accept, under any circumstances, that the IAHRC interfere in internal affairs of Venezuela and much less that it give support to a conspiratorial group that acts against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and against the citizenry.”
The Committee to Project Journalists, an NGO that repeatedly has sided with the Venezuelan opposition, praised the ruling by the court.
Despite losing its over-the-air license, RCTV continues to broadcast inside Venezuela via cable and satellite.