New York, November 9, 2017-Venezuela's constituent assembly yesterday unanimously passed a law that mandates punishment including a prison sentence of up to 20 years for anyone who instigates hate or violence on the radio, television or via social media. The new law, the Anti-Hate Law for Tolerance and Peaceful Coexistence, states that public and private media are "obligated to broadcast messages aimed at promoting peace, tolerance, equality and respect," according to news reports.
"Under this law, Venezuelan media and citizens will be unable to report and comment freely on political events, and could face severe consequences simply for sharing information," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon from New York City. "The Venezuelan government may be using the language of tolerance, but in reality it is only increasing censorship."
Under the law, which was originally introduced during a wave of nationwide anti-government protests earlier this summer, the government can revoke licenses or block web pages of any outlet that shares messages the government views as promoting hate or intolerance. Television and radio stations will now be required to broadcast at least 30 minutes of programming each week that promotes "peace and tolerance" or face fines of up to four percent of their revenue. Social media users and administrators could be fined for failing to take down "hate" messages within six hours.
The law fails to define basic terms like hate, leaving it open to broad interpretation and potential abuse, according to Caracas-based press freedom of expression organization Espacio Público.