Venezuela: New constitution would restrict press freedom

November 12, 1999

His Excellency Hugo Chávez Fr’as
President of the Republic of Venezuela
Caracas, Venezuela

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to express its deep concern about the continued inclusion of a provision guaranteeing the right to “timely, truthful, and impartial information” in the draft constitution of Venezuela. This provision violates international standards for freedom of expression.

The National Constituent Assembly, which was elected on July 25, 1999, and charged with re-writing Venezuela’s constitution, is expected to submit the proposed draft to the National Electoral Council next week. A national referendum on the constitution is scheduled for December 15.

While we respect the Venezuelan people’s right to develop their own constitution, all countries are bound to ensure that their laws meet certain standards prescribed by international law. The draft article on “truthful information” represents an attack on press freedom, since the government could conceivably restrict information it deemed to be untruthful or partisan.

CPJ believes that granting the government such power violates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart. information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

In addition, the proposed amendment would violate Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought and expression. The American Convention has been ratified by Venezuela. Under Article 1, all signatories are bound to respect the rights and freedoms enumerated in the convention.

As head of state, it is Your Excellency’s responsibility to ensure that Venezuela complies with the obligations it has assumed under international law. If an amendment that clearly violates Venezuela’s international commitments is incorporated into the country’s new constitution, we would therefore hold Your Excellency responsible.

As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, we urge you to use the power of your office to ensure that the country’s new constitution upholds, rather than subverts, the basic rights of all Venezuelans to express their views freely and without fear of reprisal.


Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director

Join CPJ in Protesting Attacks on the Press in Venezuela

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His Excellency Hugo Chávez Fr’as
President of the Republic of Venezuela
Caracas, Venezuela