CARACAS, Thursday April 26, 2007 | Update
IACHR, headed by Florentín Meléndez, sues Venezuela for undermining freedom of expression (Photo: OAS)
JUAN FRANCISCO ALONSO
For the first time in history, Venezuela is facing a legal action in an international body on alleged infringement of the right to freedom of expression.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) sued the Venezuelan State before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights for violating the fundamental rights of reporters and workers with Caracas-based private TV network RCTV.
The body -headed by Florentín Meléndez- filed the legal action against Venezuela after it verified that Venezuelan authorities failed to meet all of the recommendations made in IACHR resolution dated December 20, 2006. In this document, the Commission found that the rights to freedom of expression, personal integrity, legal guaranties and protection of people working at RCTV were infringed.
In such resolution the Commission asked President Hugo Chávez' Government not to attack RCTV reporters and workers, as well as to prosecute and punish anyone who did so, and assure the right conditions for RCTV reporters and workers to perform their duties.
IACHR waited until last April 8 to see if the Venezuelan Executive Branch met its recommendations or not. Then, the body drafted a report that has been attached to the file it has been substantiating for almost five years.
In July 23, 2002, Luisiana Ríos, Luis Augusto Contreras, Eduardo Sapene, Javier García, Isnardo Bravo, David Pérez Hansen, Wilmer Marcano, Winston Gutiérrez and Isabel Mavárez filed an action over verbal and physical attacks against them by pro-Chávez demonstrators while making the coverage of official events.
Subsequently, attached to this action were President Chávez' threats to revoke or annul the broadcasting license for RCTV.
The TV channel legal adviser Oswaldo Quintana, stressed the importance of the IACHR action before the Inter-American Court: "The Venezuelan State should respect the fundamental conditions to exert journalism in RCTV, such as keeping the signal open; otherwise, the State would infringe the recommendations made by a body the Venezuelan Government has to respect and obey."
The IACHR move to sue the Venezuelan State for infringement of freedom of expression is an unprecedented measure. So far, the hemispheric court has found Venezuela guilty of violating the fundamental rights of Venezuelan citizens in four previous instances.
The first ruling came in 1995 in connection with El Amparo massacre, in the 1980s. In 1999, the court issued a ruling over the events of February and March, 1989, known as "Caracazo."
Almost six years later, IACHR found the Venezuelan State guilty of the forced disappearances of Oscar Blanco, Roberto Hernández and José Rivas, in coastal Vargas state, during landslides in 1999.
And last, in 2006, the Venezuelan State was found guilty of a massacre in Catia prison in 1992.
Experts said, however, that a ruling on RCTV case could take one or two years.
Translated by Maryflor Suárez R.
Juan Francisco Alonso
02:57 PM. HEAVY RAINS. Venezuelan Executive Vice-President Elias Jaua reported that the government is designing plans to support farmers, cattlemen and peasants of the state of Mérida who have been hit by heavy rains that have caused crop losses.