Venezuelan Minister of Communication rejects biased position of OAS and SIP

Minister Andrés Izarra responded to reports issued by the OAS's Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and by the Inter-American Press Society (SIP), saying that they both displayed a lack of impartiality.

The Venezuelan Minister of Communication, Andrés Izarra, expressed the Chavez government’s concern caused by “the relapse of the OAS Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression in trying to intervene into a domestic legislative process, such as the debate on the Project for the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and TV”.

Izarra made his comments in reaction to a letter that the OAS Special Rapporteur sent to Venezuela’s foreign minister, which said that, “the vague terms” of the Law on Social Responsibility in Television and Radio “could threaten and indirectly restrict freedom of expression, such as by self-censorship.”

Izarra responded by saying, “We are concerned, but not surprised, because the position about Venezuela of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression has always been framed by a grave lack of impartiality”.

The Ministry of Communication and Information highlighted the “odd” fact that the OAS statement was released simultaneously with one issued by the Inter-American Press Society (SIP, in Spanish), “an entity composed by media owners, to whom the statements of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression seem to be subordinated”.

The SIP had condemned Venezuela for an “alarming turn towards the restriction and intimidation of the press” and for working towards passing the Law on Social Responsibility.

Izarra reminded some of the office’s background in meddling measures, such as the 2001 report about Freedom of Expression, which did not contain any sort of evidence. Besides, Venezuelan authorities were never informed about this report, which can be considered as an aggression against the Venezuelan people and institutions.

“We also remember when, during the phase prior to the April 2002 coup d’état, the Venezuelan media were devoted to violating every domestic and international regulation, by replacing all of their regular programs by broadcasting one after another messages that promoted hate, violence, civil war, and destabilization of democratic institutions. This attitude of the Venezuelan media deserved a statement of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, to rebuke them and to warn them that by taking such position they placed themselves outside of the law. But, against any kind of legal reasoning, on April 9th the Office issued a statement denouncing the Government”, Izarra pointed out.

The Venezuelan official added that the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression has a “corporative” concept of Freedom of Expression. He reminded the Special Rapporteur, Eduardo Bartoni, that both his vision and the SIP’s contradict the American Convention on Humans Rights because “by means of that vision media are expected to continue misinforming people”. He reminded Bertoni that the International Criminal Court penalized the Media in Rwanda because they promoted violence and racial hate, which led to the genocide against the Tutsis. “In Venezuela they have also done this. The whole world witnessed the media’s treachery against democratic institutions. Only the Special Rapporteur is unaware of this”.

Izarra ended by saying to the International Community that the “Bolivarian Constitution is an example of progress with regard to the Human Rights issue, and the Law of Social Responsibility on Radio and TV rigorously abides by the precepts contained in the constitution and by the regulations of the American Convention on Human Rights, which we are part of”.