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Human rights organisations in Venezuela continue to express concern over the high level of attacks, including harassment, death threats and arrests, as well as assassination attempts and killings, against human rights defenders, journalists and media workers, and those working on issues relating to the prison system.
The authorities have systematically undermined freedom of expression, which has not only created problems for human rights defenders and other critical voices, but has also created a more restrictive environment in which the media must operate. The government has taken advantage of its control over broadcast frequencies to pressure media outlets to self-censor and limit their level of criticism. There have been continuous reports of acts of intimidation and death threats against journalists and media workers in general, who have also been threatened with legal proceedings.
Public officials, including President Hugo Chávez, as well as state controlled media channels and print media, have continued to stigmatise human rights defenders through persistent campaigns to discredit their work. These public declarations put human rights defenders and their organisations at further risk of threats and attacks.
The increased government control over the judiciary, combined with high levels of impunity, have brought a lack of trust in the judicial system which deeply affects the work of human rights defenders. Ever since the political takeover of the Supreme Court by President Chávez in 2004, there has been a gradual takeover of the entire judiciary. Those judges who choose to rule against government interests are challenged and may face reprisals. A number of cases have been reported of human rights defenders who have been critical of the government being arrested and subject to judicial proceedings on what would appear to be political grounds.
Freedom of association has also been restricted and the introduction of laws regarding foreign funding has hindered the work of civil society organisations. The passing of the Political Sovereignty and National Self-Determination Law in December 2010 prohibited political parties, civil associations and individuals from receiving foreign funding. The law was passed following statements from President Chávez in which he claimed that such funding is an “attempt to destabilise the country”.
Venezuela: Public official makes defamatory statements about human rights defender Dr Humberto Prado Sifontes
Venezuela - Fear for safety of human rights defender Ms Eloísa Barrios following the alleged extrajudicial killing of a member of her family
Venezuela: Attack and death threats against the family of Ms Marianela Sánchez Ortiz, in relation to the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory's work
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