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Media Freedom Coalition statement on Venezuela

July 4, 2022 - Global Affairs Canada

The undersigned members of the Media Freedom Coalition express their deep concern over the lack of media freedom in Venezuela. Of particular concern are the repressive measures employed by the Maduro regime, including the harassment and persecution of journalists, media workers and independent media outlets, censorship, Internet shutdowns, property seizures and the general silencing of critics. This comes in addition to the considerable difficulties and restrictions that are faced by non-governmental organizations working on analysis and reporting of issues within Venezuela.

In recent years, the Maduro regime has restricted media freedom by harassing and persecuting dissenting voices, particularly those of journalists and media workers. Independent journalists in Venezuela operate within a highly restrictive regulatory and legal environment, and risk arrest and physical violence. These difficulties also extend to non-governmental organizations working on analysis and reporting of current events within Venezuela. To avoid persecution or undesired consequences, including arbitrary detentions, many journalists and news media resort to self-censorship.

The Maduro regime has also orchestrated the acquisition of media trusts to secure friendly editorial perspectives and propagate state-sponsored policies, messages and ideology. State-owned media outlets provide almost exclusively favourable coverage to the regime, to the detriment of any dissenting voices. Media outlets that criticize or challenge the Maduro regime risk facing legal consequences, including the cancellation of their licences and the seizure of equipment or property. As a result, Venezuela has lost its once-vibrant newspaper sector and the Maduro regime controls the domestic narrative.

Restrictive measures are evident in the digital space in Venezuela, where the Maduro regime uses targeted content blocking against critics. The blocking or filtering of services affects the free flow of information as well as freedom of expression, further eroding media freedom and civic space. This is of particular concern, given that means of digital information and communications have never been more important and that most independent news outlets in Venezuela can now only operate online. The regime also allocates significant resources to disseminate its own messaging and drown out voices that challenge its narrative.

The right to freedom of expression as exercised by journalists is fundamental to the protection and promotion of democracy, all human rights and the rule of law. Free, independent and pluralistic media both online and offline is crucial for a democratic society to make informed decisions, hold authorities, institutions and individuals accountable and hear a diversity of opinions. Being able to work in safety allows journalists to fulfill their crucial role of being a source of objective and unbiased information.

We commend the courage of all journalists and media workers in Venezuela who, both online and offline, report on attacks to democratic institutions and on human rights violations and abuses, as well as on corruption in Venezuela. Journalists need a safe environment in which to do their work.

Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States

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