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Inter-American Human Rights Court Says Venezuela Did Not Violate TV Station’s Free Speech

Mérida, March 5th 2009 ( -- The Inter-American Court of Human Rights announced its ruling Wednesday that the Venezuelan government did not violate the right to freedom of expression, equality before the law, or private property of two private television stations, Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV) and Globovisión, which had accused it of doing so.

“It has not been established that the state has violated the right to seek, receive, and diffuse information,” the decision stated, repeating the conclusion verbatim with regard to the right to private property and equality before the law.

However, in a fourth point, the court decided that the government “is responsible for not fulfilling its obligation… to guarantee the practice of the freedom to seek, receive, and diffuse information,” because it should do more to prevent and punish acts of intimidation against journalists by third parties.

The decision closes two cases brought forth simultaneously by Globovisión and RCTV, both of which openly identify and plan political strategies with the opposition to the government of President Hugo Chávez.

The media climate in Venezuela is highly politicized. Over the years, individuals who claim to be government supporters have tear gassed private media facilities and threatened reporters from RCTV and Globovisión in response to what they say is “media terrorism” against the government, most recently manifested in Globovision’s broadcast of a talk show host’s threat to assassinate President Chávez.

Chávez has decisively condemned violent attacks against the media, but reiterated his accusation that the private stations are waging a “media war” against him, and called on state institutions to respond with a more vigorous information campaign.  

Also, in May 2007, Venezuela did not renew the broadcasting license of RCTV, on the grounds that the station had violated the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television hundreds of times and supported the U.S.-backed coup against Chávez in April 2002 by broadcasting false pro-coup propaganda and covering up real events during the coup.

RCTV still broadcasts on cable and satellite. Meanwhile, opposition groups have attempted to present the government as a violator of civil rights, using as a tactic the presentation of these two cases against the Chávez government before the court.

The prosecution attempted to link the government to various incidents of intimidation against journalists since 2001, whereas the defense successfully disproved such a link.

The court decision states that in itself, the recognition of the need for the Venezuelan government to more effectively discourage third party attacks is “per se, a form of reparation” to the twenty-six reporters  whose experiences were brought to bear in the decision.

The court also says the Venezuelan government should to conduct investigations of the reporters’ cases “efficiently and within a reasonable time period,” and “adopt the necessary measures to avoid undue restrictions and direct or indirect obstacles to the practice of the freedom to seek, receive, and diffuse information” in the future.

Because the government was not found to have violated the reporters’ rights, the sentence requires no monetary reparation to the reporters, but does ask the government to pay the court for legal and administrative fees, which amounted to $10,000.

RCTV’s case was presented by RCTV journalist Luisiana Ríos, and Globovisión’s case by journalist Gabriela Perozo, while former Venezuelan Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez defended the state.

The court is an autonomous institution of the Organization of American States (OAS) that is in charge of applying and interpreting the American Convention on Human Rights.

Published on Mar 5th 2009 at 7.01pm