THE IACHR EXPRESSES ITS CONCERN OVER
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the approval of the Draft Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television by the Legislative Assembly of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression has informed the Commission that certain aspects of the bill are incompatible with Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
The bill still places conditions of truthfulness and timeliness on the information carried by news broadcasts. The Commission has already stated that the imposition of such conditions is in breach of Article 13 of the American Convention. In addition, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has said that: “One cannot legitimately rely on the right of a society to be honestly informed in order to put in place a regime of prior censorship for the alleged purpose of eliminating information deemed to be untrue in the eyes of the censor” (Advisory Opinion No. 5, 1985).
The proposed legislation still places broad restrictions on the content of radio and television programs during large parts of the broadcast day, and these could well lead to violations of the Convention’s provisions. The use of vague terminology, together with the existence of potentially excessive penalties, could have the effect of intimidating the media and journalists and, consequently, of curtailing the flow of information about matters of public interest.
Another cause for concern is the bill’s creation of a Social Responsibility Office and a Responsibility Council, both with very broad powers. Given the numerous penalties established by the bill, the powers given to the state-controlled bodies responsible for overseeing its enforcement and imposing those sanctions could undermine the enjoyment of freedom of speech in Venezuela.
Washington, D.C., November 30, 2004