Spanish Version

Is the Legislative Branch Controlled by the Executive?

Is the Judicial branch controlled by the Executive?

Is the National Electoral Council controlled by the Executive?

Is the new Citizens' Power (the Public Prosecutor, the Office of the Comptroller and the Peoples' Advocate) controlled by the Executive?

Are the Supreme Court Justices biased in the discharge of their Duties?

Is the Independence of the Judicial Career respected?

Do Venezuelan Courts respect Constitutional Law principles?

Is the Supreme Court at the service of the Administration?

Is the National Electoral Council (CNE) an Impartial Body?

Does the CNE Address The Interests of Civil Society or those of the Government?

Does the National Electoral Council Act In Conformity to the law?

Is voting by way of electronic machines reliable?

Does the Electoral Register (RE) contain true and precise information?

Are the media really independent?

Does the Penal Code limit freedom of expression?

Are journalists persecuted, threatened or harassed because of the way they cover the news?

Are human rights violated in Venezuela ?

Does discrimination on political grounds exist in Venezuela?

Are there political prisoners in Venezuela ? Are people persecuted for political reasons?

Are those active in the defense of democracy in Venezuela persecuted and imprisoned?

Are private life and private property respected?

Is freedom in education respected?

Have the human rights of the April 2002 victims been respected and have those responsible been indicted?

Is the Executive ruling under a military style?

Is the political parties system declining in Venezuela?

Are traditional trade-union organizations being respected?

Is the civil society allowed to exercise the functions conferred by the Constitution?

 
Freedom of expression
ARE THE MEDIA REALLY INDEPENDENT?
 
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Summary

  • Pressures towards private television networks minimize and close opinion programs opposite to President Chávez Government administration.
  • Criminal and fiscal proceedings try to impose millionaire penalties in order to disqualify TV channels that give opinions different from those of the Government.
  • Social Responsibility Law for TV and Radio (Ley Resorte) increases the State control over TV and radio transmissions.
  • The Social Responsibility Directory created to enforce the Ley Resorte, will function –in practice- as a “media censor”.
  • 7 out of 11 members of the Social Responsibility Directory designated by the Government and its President is an official designated by President Chávez.
  • Human Rights Watch stated: “imposing strait jackets to the media is not the way of promoting democracy”.
  • Inter American Press Society (SIP) considers that the Ley Resorte enables the State intrusion in media contents and urged the Government for its derogation.
  • Broadcasting International Association (AIR) presents a report with violations and restrictions to the freedom of speech and press during the term 2004-2005.
  • Reporters without Frontiers worried with the passing of the Ley Resorte.
  • Inter American Commission of Human Rights declared that the vague terms of the Ley Resorte might cause a threatening effect and restrain the flow of information.
  • AIR issues a communication rejecting the actions taken by the National Telecommunications Commission against radio and television networks.
  • National and international communities repudiate charges against the diary “El Universal”, for criticizing the manner in which justice is administered in Venezuela.

1. Since President Chávez took power in 1998 he has taken aim at Venezuela 's privately held media because he believes that they are his main enemies. He has referred to the four main private television stations as "the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" for the critical stance they've taken regarding his government's policies. Through government-sponsored pressure tactics aimed at restricting the television media's freedom of expression, President Chávez has attempted, successfully in several instances, to suppress public affairs and political talk shows and interview programs which were critical of his government. For example, the TV station Venevisión, which together with another TV station, RCTV, are viewed by 80% of the population, has cancelled its daytime opinion and news programs. Televen has cancelled the opinion programs anchored by some controversial journalists such as Martha Colomina and Cesar Miguel Rondón and some radio stations have followed suit.


2. For the last two years, in order to curb dissenting views and opinions, the regulatory body which oversees the broadcasting industry has initiated numerous punitive procedures, including levying sanctions and fines, against television station. The fines range from the equivalent of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, compliance with which could put any television station out of business. The government itself has defined these procedures as a way to pressure the TV stations into not broadcasting opinions against the government.


3. On December 7, 2004 the National Assembly passed the Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law (or Ley Resorte ). The new law increases State control over radio and television programming and includes measures which go against accepted international norms in the field. These include stipulations in Articles 6 and 7, which limit the broadcasting of images and sounds based on concepts that are so ambiguous that stations have no way of knowing at what point they are breaking the law since such stipulations are subject to the arbitrary interpretation of the regulatory agency.


4. The law establishes within the regulatory agency a Directorate for Social Responsibility, which is composed of eleven people, whose main function is to oversee compliance with the provisions of the law and to impose sanctions on offenders. Sanctions include taking cultural and educational programming off the air, fines, the suspension of business licenses which allow stations to broadcast, and revoking their concessions. In practice, the Directorate is nothing less than a media censoring agency.


5. Of the Directorate for Social Responsibility's eleven members, seven are designated by the Government in representation of State agencies and none represents the broadcasting industry. This means that radio and television stations have no direct recourse within the Directorate to plead their cases or to appeal sanctions that might be levied upon them. In addition, the Directorate's chairman is the Director General of the regulatory agency, the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL), and thus a presidential appointee.


6. A number of international organizations have expressed their opinions and concerns about this law. Human Rights Watch, through its Executive Director for the Americas , José Miguel Vivanco, has sharply questioned the law, stating that "putting straitjackets on the media is not the right way to promote democracy."


7. The Inter-American Press Society (SIP) has stated that the law creates mechanisms via which the State can exercise control over what the media can publish or broadcast. In light of this situation, the SIP has asked the Venezuelan government to repeal the law on the grounds that it contravenes basic principles of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.


8. The international NGO, Reporters Without Borders, has issues a communiqué in which it expressed its deep concern recordings " the enactment of a law whose scope for interpretation is so broad that it could be used against the media that do not share the government's point of view".


9. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission has stated that "The use of vague terminology in the law, in addition to the possibility of sanctions that could be applied excessively, can result in the intimidation of the media and reporters, thereby limiting the flow of information on issues of public interest".


10. Finally, the Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law allows the government to control program scheduling and content in the broadcast media thus, according to experts, putting a straitjacket on freedom of expression.