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Freedom of speech and press is at stake

IAPA to report "gag law" in Venezuela to the OAS

The Inter-American Press Association Monday held an emergency forum on freedom of speech in Venezuela, and concluded that "contempt," as set forth under a government-sponsored content law, is another attempt to restrict freedom of speech and press. The body said it is to watch closely the implementation of the new regulation, also known as "media gag law"

Alejandro Miró Quesada, president of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), believes that the "real intentions" behind the so-called Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law have not been disclosed (Photo: Vicente Correale)


Ricardo Trotti, Press Freedom Coordinator of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), Monday announced that IAPA top officials Tuesday are to meet with the Acting Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luigi R. Einaudi, to address the situation of press freedom and freedom of speech in Venezuela vis-à-vis the impending enactment of the Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law.

The IAPA has always shown concerns about this regulation, and since 2000 it has warned that the so-called "media gag law" is "perverse". Now, when the law is about to be enacted, the IAPA is to continue to watch closely any moves Venezuelan authorities may adopt under the content law, as it poses serious threats for freedom of speech.

"Tomorrow (Tuesday) we are going to Washington to meet with the Acting Secretary General of the OAS, to address, among other topics, the Venezuelan issue because we are really worried about it."

The association is to resort to any possible means to disclose the contents of the Venezuelan "media gag law" in the region. "Now, we need to know how the law is to be enforced and its regulations. So far, we have just heard threats, and we want to see how the law is to be enforced."

Trotti agreed that such "threats" are to force the media into self-censorship, which is "regrettable." He added, however, that the IAPA is to continue "to support media associations whenever they file" any claims.
The IAPA is upholding the media, but Trotti stressed that as long as the Venezuelan people fight any restrictions against freedom of speech the IAPA is to support their efforts.

Even though all countries face problems related to freedom of speech, the Venezuelan case is currently under the spotlight. Therefore, Trotti did not rule holding meetings in other countries in the region to disclose the real implications of the Venezuelan content law. The major goal is to defend "the principles of freedom of speech and press freedom." The IAPA is concerned about the fact that the media have to disclose "veracious information," as set forth under the Constitution.

"Given the pecuniary sanctions to be imposed on the media, opinion is to become virtually in a crime, as contempt is to be specifically introduced to protect public officials."

Trotti reminded that contempt is to be introduced in the content law even though it has been eliminated in other countries. This is another attempt to undermine freedom of speech and press.

Translated by Maryflor Suárez

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