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Venezuela violated freedom of speech by refusing to renew TV license, groups assert in court papers / Amicus brief filed by Committee to Protect Journalists and City Bar

Venezuela’s May 2007 refusal to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Television, or RCTV, violated Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights and is “a violation of settled inter-American principles of freedom of speech and the rule of law,” the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the New York City Bar Association said in an amicus brief filed today before the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The case, Marcel Granier and others vs. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is the first brought before the Inter-American system that directly involves a state’s decision not to renew the license of a free-to-air television station, which, in the case of RCTV, operated in Venezuela since 1953 and had an editorial stance that was critical of the administration of the late President Hugo Chávez. The hearings are set to start on May 28 in Costa Rica.

“Undisputed statements by high-ranking Venezuelan government officials make clear that the administration of the late President Hugo Chávez was not prepared to tolerate the views and ideas aired by RCTV,” the brief states, making this a “textbook example of retaliatory content-based censorship, which has long been recognized as a particularly pernicious form of restriction on speech.”

The brief was submitted for the New York City Bar Association by the Committee on Communications & Media Law and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, and was prepared by the New York-based law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, whose lawyers include litigation partner Jeremy Feigelson and Thomas H. Norgaard, a Venezuela and U.S.-trained lawyer focused on international law matters.

The brief concludes, “Freedom of speech in Venezuela suffered a vital blow in violation of Article 13 of the Convention when Venezuela, with a view to censor RCTV’s editorial stance, refused to renew its concession. The ability of individuals and the press to openly debate, discuss and criticize government policy is a fundamental component of any democratic society, and largely depends on the ability of the media to convey diverse strands of thought. Venezuela’s actions have diminished that ability.”

The full brief can be downloaded at the following links:

http://bit.ly/1mijhs0 (English)

http://bit.ly/1uVaIr8 (Spanish)

 

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