UN expert urges Venezuela to cancel arrest warrant against TV executive

17 June 2010

A United Nations independent human rights expert today urged authorities in Venezuela to withdraw arrest warrants against a television executive and his son, saying the orders were an attempt by the Government to silence its critics and a sign of deteriorating freedom of the press in the country.

Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, said the warrants to arrest Guillermo Zuloaga, president of the private TV news channel Globovisión, and his son allegedly for business irregularities were politically-motivated and intended to silence Mr. Zuloaga, who has been critical of President Hugo Chavez.

“No Government in the world has the right to silence critics or those who oppose the State with criminal proceedings,” said Mr. La Rue, 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 warrants were issued on 11 June by a prosecutor in Caracas, the capital.

“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,” Mr. La Rue 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.”

Mr. La Rue urged the Venezuelan Government to take all necessary steps to guarantee the right to freedom of opinion and expression of all people in line with fundamental principles stipulated in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Venezuela is a party.

“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,” he added.

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