Human rights organizations and university human rights centers have expressed serious concern over the harassment from CONATEL (Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Regulator Commission) against ULA 107.7 FM, the University of Los Andes´ radio station, an educational and cultural channel accessible to everyone.
On June 5, 2018, CONATEL directed the radio station through a missive “to refrain from broadcasting messages and contents that make people uneasy in accordance with the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Electronic Media.” The Commission also urged the radio station “to take all immediate and necessary measures in order to provide accurate and timely information to people.” All this after Professor Ilka Paola Dominguez, Secretary of Academic Affairs of the Association of Professors of the Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Sciences at the University of Los Andes, made the following statement in the program “La ciudad en la radio”:
This is Professor Ilka Paola Dominguez, Secretary of Academic Affairs of the Association of Professors of the Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Sciences of the University of Los Andes. The high cost of living, the poor work conditions, the lack of supplies for teaching and research, and the negligible wages are driving professors from all universities in Venezuela to work in other fields or to migrate to other countries. The highly trained and skilled teaching staff is resigning massively.
‘I want to leave’ are the most common words one can hear in campus corridors; but, despite of the hard situation, the diaspora cannot become a shortcut to solve our difficulties for survival, nor the country’s general issues. We must resist.”
What Professor Domínguez said is not just an opinion but a fact, since different NGOs and university human rights centers have extensively researched and documented the current crisis Venezuelan universities are facing.
It is not the first time that CONATEL has put pressure on, threatened or silenced ULA media. It should be recalled that, one year ago, on June 15, 2017, CONATEL decreed to commence a punitive administrative proceeding against ULA TV, the University of Los Andes´ television station, which concluded to seize its operating equipment and to definitely take the broadcasting off air as of that date.
In this regard, it is important to note that both the Organic Law on Telecommunications and the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Electronic Media have been usually used to criminalize the lawful exercise of freedom of expression of the university community limiting the access to timely and accurate information, as it is acknowledged in the Venezuelan National Constitution. The CONATEL administrative proceeding against ULA TV last year and the new “warning” against ULA 107.7 FM radio station are illegal restrictions to the right to freedom of expression, mainly due to the discretion the Venezuelan State has to control the radio spectrum, which entitles it to issue seemingly legal administrative proceedings that ultimately infringe fundamental human rights.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights Advisory Opinion OC-5/85, issued on Nov. 13, 1985, established that the freedom of expression “is one of the essential functions of a democratic society” and that “the formation of public opinion based on true information is indispensable to the existence of a vital democratic society.” The relevance of prohibiting prior censorship is deduced out of the contents of this constitutional and supra-constitutional regulation, while the Pact of San José states that the exercise of rights to freedom of expression and thought “shall not be subject to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability.”
Therefore, we urge Venezuelan governmental authorities to ensure the right to freedom of expression, information and opinion, guaranteed by the Venezuelan National Constitution and the international treaties signed by the Republic. We call as well for an immediate end of threats against university media devoted to inform and educate in a responsible manner. Likewise, we express our support to university radio station ULA 7 FM, by its defense of democratic values and principles.
At last, we recall the Venezuelan government that unlawful regulations are null, should not be obeyed, and entail consequences.
– Aula Abierta Venezuela
– Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos de la Universidad
Central de Venezuela
– Comisión para los Derechos Humanos de la Facultad de Ciencias
Jurídicas y Políticas de la Universidad del Zulia
– Epikeia Observatorio Universitario de Derechos Humanos
– Observatory of Human Rights of the University of Los Andes