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Venezuela: UN expert calls on the authorities to withdraw arrest warrant against TV channel president

GENEVA (17 June 2010) – The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, urged the Venezuelan authorities to withdraw the arrest warrants against Guillermo Zuloaga, president of the private TV news channel Globovisión, and his son. “No Government in the world has the right to silence critics or those who oppose the State with criminal proceedings,” Mr. La Rue said.

“This latest act of harassment against Mr. Zuloaga is symptomatic of the continuous deterioration of freedom of the press in the country,” noted the independent expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The Special Rapporteur said that he is troubled by the arrest warrants issued on 11 June 2010 by a prosecutor in Caracas against Mr. Zuloaga and his son allegedly for business irregularities. It is feared that these warrants are politically motivated aimed solely at silencing Mr. Zuloaga who has been critical of President Hugo Chavez.

“This is not the first time that staff members of Globovisión, including Mr. Zuloaga, are criminally prosecuted because of the exercise of their right to freedom of expression,” he said. Since 2001, Globovisión’s personnel have been subject to acts of harassment and intimidation, which in 2008 led the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to order provisional measures to protect its employees.

“I urge the Venezuelan Government to take all necessary steps to secure the right to freedom of opinion and expression of all persons, in accordance with fundamental principles as set forth in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and recalled in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights*, to which Venezuela is a party,” stressed the Special Rapporteur.

“I would like to reiterate my request to visit Venezuela in order to make an in-depth assessment on the ground of the state of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in the country,” Mr. La Rue said. “This request regrettably remains unanswered.”

Frank La Rue was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any Government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. The UN first decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur to examine questions relevant to the right to freedom of opinion and expression in 1993. The mandate, since reviewed and extended in 2008, involves reporting annually to the Human Rights Council on issues related to freedom of opinion and expression.

(*) Check the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Venezuela: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/VEIndex.aspx